Governor announces emergency money on the way

Published 7:54 pm Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Poplarville is expected to get the $2 million in emergency funds for which the city applied to install a new well and tank to support home construction in and around the city, said Gov. Haley Barbour at a press conference at noon Tuesday.

More money has been approved to help all of the coastal counties that did not opt out of a master plan for utility districts.

Poplarville’s emergency situation was at the top of the funding list from the beginning and soon the city and the Pearl River County Utility Authority will receive an answer on their application, Barbour said.

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“Days not weeks,” Barbour said about a tentative date on an answer.

The application calls for a well and holding tank to provide more water for the city so more housing construction can take place. Last year the city stopped all construction because the existing wells do not provide enough water to support any population growth.

The well and tank will be placed somewhere in or near Poplarville. Details of where the well and tank will be placed are under discussion between Poplarville officials and members of the Utility Authority.

Poplarville Alderman Shirley Wiltshire said in a phone interview following the press conference that there are two proposed sites — at the old county jail near the Poplarville Hospital and Nursing Home or in Poplarville’s Industrial Park.

While plans for the jail site have been approved, Wiltshire said placing the well and tank there will hinder growth in the city. She contends that more growth for Poplarville would be enhanced if the system is placed in Poplarville’s Industrial Park. She said the Authority would like to place the well at the jail site to support growth outside of the city as well as some growth inside the city, which she said she understands. She said she is looking out for the best interests of the city.

If the new well is placed at the jail site, Poplarville officials may seek funding for another well within its city limits, Wiltshire said. No matter where the well is placed, it will provide water for at least 100 to 200 new homes, she said.

Development of the well and tank is scheduled to begin in April at whichever location is agreed upon, she said.

“And I got my fingers crossed when I say that,” Wiltshire said.

At the press conference, Barbour said the Mississippi Gulf Waste Water and Water Plan developed by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality has been submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for approval. The governor said he expects the plan to be approved by HUD.

A comment period elicited more ideas, which Barbour said solidified his request for about 20 percent more in Community Development Block Grants than were included in the draft master plan submitted last year. The funds will be used by the five coastal counties that decided not to opt out of the regional waste water and water plan, he said. George County opted out and will receive no funding, he said. The cost of the plan increased to approximately $630 million in CDBG money from the initial $500 million proposed in the draft plan, he said.

The objective of the plan was to identify the most critical needs in water and sewer infrastructure in the Mississippi coastal counties and prioritize and implement plans to meet the needs. The new systems will be placed outside of hurricane-prone areas. This funding is not to repair existing systems since the Federal Emergency Management Agency will fund those repairs, Barbour said.

The need for new infrastructure in the six coastal counties came with the migration of residents farther inland after Hurricane Katrina, Barbour said. The plan is expected to help provide water and sewer infrastructure in those areas with insufficient or non-existing sewer and water systems.

“I anticipate that very shortly we will be announcing some emergency projects,” Barbour said. “The underlying purpose of all this infrastructure is to provide affordable housing.”