HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – A group in Hot Springs will gather signatures this week for a voter referendum related to water rate increases. The leader of the group said he is hopeful but thinks getting the necessary number may be difficult.

Last week, county leaders said the rate increase is necessary to fund water infrastructure expansion, which City Manager Bill Burrough said is more costly than initially expected due to pandemic-related inflation. 

Burrough said if the referendum continues, the city will shut off new water connections to keep the current system from maxing out.

“We know we’re going to be past the time where we know we can bring another solution to the problem,” Burrough said.

The increase would be $2 in January and November of next year, meaning $4 in total. Community activist George Pritchett is leading a group to collect signatures to put this on the ballot for next year and delay the rate increase.

“If we win, it’s wonderful,” Pritchett said. “If we don’t win, they know we’re here.”

Pritchett said two city leaders were initially on board with the signature-gathering process but ultimately backed out. He said starting from the beginning means the group would need to gather more than 1,600 signatures.

“Will we make it? I don’t know,” Pritchett said. “I’m hopeful. If not, I’ll know that we tried.”