Mulberry is undergoing a water study to see about the possibility of increasing water rates.

Josh Freeman, circuit rider with Arkansas Rural Water Association, has been conducting a water rate study for the city to determine usage, according to the minutes from the May 21 city council meeting.

Freeman will study water usage by the city’s residents and those that purchase water from the city to determine if a recommendation for city officials to increase rates should be made.

Freeman will give city officials a report of his findings once the study is completed.

Alderwoman Dottie Goodnoh said she was not in favor of a rate increase, while Alderman Jeff Brown advised looking at water sales to new groups.

Brown suggested Mayor Gary Baxter speak with the manager of the Highway 71 Water Authority about the possibility of selling them water from Mulberry’s TJ House Reservoir. He also thought city officials should look into grants to cover any hookup costs to do so.

City water and sewage funds have both seen shortages in recent months, according to the minutes.

In April, the water fund did not have enough money to make the budgeted monthly transfer of $10,833, said city clerk Marie Johnson. The transfer is used along with money from other funds to pay the water plant and water tower loan payments, Johnson said.

Money from the debt retirement fund was borrowed to make up the difference for April, and Baxter told city officials he believes the city will be able to make up the difference during summer when water usage increases.

In May, the checking portion of the sewage fund was short, requiring a transfer of $10,000 from the shop and vehicle reserve to help pay payroll, according to the minutes. Council members approved the transfer.

Also at the May 21 meeting, council members approved a resolution allowing a temporary variance to the city’s nepotism law. The variance will benefit Alderman Jeff Brown, who also is on staff with the fire department.

As of last year, the city’s fire department members were considered by the Internal Revenue Service to be employees of the city rather than volunteers. The variance allows Brown to remain in both positions with the city, as long as he doesn’t leave either position.

Alderman Jimmy Moore emphasized that this will be the only exception to the nepotism policy.

During the April 16 meeting, council members approved the purchase of a Chevrolet Tahoe for the police department.

Cost for the Tahoe fully equipped will total $39,681 if picked up from its location in Texas, or $39,893 if delivered to Fort Smith, said Mulberry Police Chief Shannon Gregory.

Council members also approved an ordinance to permit bank fishing at designated areas of the TJ House Reservoir.