West Memphis Utility Commission
“West Memphis Utility Commission History”
Mr. Hundhausen came to West Memphis in 1910, and served on the first City Council in 1928. He was first asked to grant a franchise for the Power and Light Systems, to a private concern, in one of his first council meetings. Mr. Hundhausen, using his keen fore sight was the only councilman to vote against this proposal. However, the franchise was granted at that meeting. The franchise changed hands several times in the next few years with each group making a substantial amount of money.
On April 14, 1932, Mr. Hundhausen was elected Mayor. Almost immediately he began to try and buy back the utilities for the City of West Memphis. After eight years of legal battles and some of the bitterest controversy ever to develop locally, the City received title to the Utilities on December 1, 1940, for $210,000.00.
Operation of the Utilities was first placed under the supervision of a five-man commission headed by Mr. Hundhausen as Mayor. Mr. Hundhausen served on the Commission, having held positions such as Chairman, Vice Chairman and Secretary.
Just to show what the Utilities have meant to the City, let me give you some figures. The first time the utilities transferred money to the City was in August 1942, in the amount of $2,500.00 to be used for street improvement purposes. That amount has grown yearly and in 1971 the transfer was over $600,000.00 making a total of $6,622,223.76 transferred to the City in thirty years. Presently, the West Memphis Utility Commission pays 5% of revenue in lieu of taxes to the City of West Memphis, which equates to approximately $1,500,000.00 annually. These figures provide proof that revenue from the West Memphis Utilities made it possible for the citizens of the City of West Memphis to have more benefits, and with lower taxes, than would be possible if the Utilities were not municipally owned and operated.
The Utility System, consisting of Sewer, Water and Electric Utilities, is operated by the City's Utility Commission (the "Utility Commission") which is comprised of seven members who are nominated by any member of the City Council and elected by a majority vote of the City Council to serve for staggered three year terms. Members are required to be qualified resident electors who shall be experienced in some type of business management. The System has approximately 80 employees.