Letter to the Editor

Dr. Shemwell makes case for well reimbursement

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Dear Editor,

I am writing this letter in response to recent coverage, particularly the March 13 letter to the editor from Councilwoman Barbara McAdoo Brothers, related to ANC's request of Blytheville Waterworks and the City of Blytheville for cost recovery of the fire suppression well system installed at the College.

Under questioning at the March 11 meeting of the Blytheville City Council's Airport and Utilities Committee, City of Blytheville Chief Financial Officer John Callens affirmed without hesitation that the City has the financial resources to provide cost reimbursement to the College per the approach described in that meeting by City Attorney Chris Brown WITHOUT ANY NEED FOR A RATE INCREASE for the customers of the Blytheville Waterworks. Brothers' letter seems to conveniently ignore this vitally important fact. No one can predict what might arise in the future, but the question of whether or not the City reimbursing ANC for the fire suppression well would trigger a rate increase was answered definitively.

Another largely unreported point related to this issue is that the cost effectiveness of the fire suppression well solution implemented by the College has been proven by the fact that the City is copying this same methodology with their current plan to provide fire suppression water for the Blytheville Primary School, the KIPP School, the new Justice Complex, and other South Blytheville entities.

The initial plan of the engineers hired by the City was exceedingly more expensive before even considering the added costs of purchasing the land easements necessary to implement it, almost certainly leading to a rate increase for Blytheville Waterworks customers. Instead, the City now is adopting a much more cost effective plan by following the innovative example implemented at ANC. In other words, the City will enjoy a tremendous financial savings and the customers of the Blytheville Waterworks will avoid a likely rate increase because the College's fire suppression solution demonstrated a better way to answer the fire suppression water needs of South Blytheville.

Lastly, no need exists for a lengthy rebuttal to Brothers' insistence that the College's fire suppression well is of no benefit to the citizens of Blytheville, so I will be brief. Tens of thousands of County residents, including huge numbers of Blytheville citizens, have relied upon and continue to rely upon the Arkansas Northeastern College to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to improve their lives, provide for their families, and, in many cases, escape the chains of poverty. As a native son of Blytheville who first entered our College's doors as a student 37 years ago, I personally can attest to ANC's important role in my life which is a primary factor why I chose to return to my home County and invest a 25-year career at ANC. What is the benefit to the people of Blytheville of a fire suppression well that serves only the College? The benefit is to prevent one of Blytheville's most precious and vital assets, ANC, from literally burning to the ground in the event of a fire. Period.