Utility Authority fees draw fire

Published 7:27 pm Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Developer issues with Utility Authority fees and consolidation of voting precincts were topics of discussion for the county policy makers with some student presence.

An issue arose when the developer for Wildwood Subdivision was charged $50 per lot for about 700 lots. It was the understanding of the developer that the preliminary plat was already approved, exempting it from the fees.

This prompted the board to take a stab at the Pearl River County Utility Authority concerning other complaints on the high fees of getting some water and waste water service. Some residents consider the $300 hook up fee to a septic tank a bit steep. Brooks Wallace with Dungan Engineering said the utility authority has dropped the charge from an initial $1,000 to $500, then recently to $300. When asked what those fees are for, Wallace said they are for administrative fees. He said there are many things the utility does do that they do not collect fees on.

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District IV Supervisor Robert Thigpen asked if the authority does any of the assessments that need to be done before a permit is issued for a septic system.

Wallace said the Health Department does that assessment and charges a separate $50 charge, the utility authority does not do the assessment.

“But why do ya’ll have to charge $300, ya’ll aren’t doing anything,” District II Supervisor Larry Davis said. “The amount of money they are charging has done got out of hand.”

“So it’s on the backs of the local people to pay for the bureaucracy that’s there,” Thigpen said.

Davis said it is the individuals that are being hit the hardest with the fees. No action was taken on the matter, since Wallace said the developer turned in the plats too late to be exempt from the fees.

A water issue concerning the city of Poplarville is coming to a resolution.

Wallace presented the board with a tentative layout for the new well and storage facility. Dungan Engineering is still waiting on the environmental aspects of the project to be worked out. Wallace said if the authority can run a 12- or 16-inch line from the new well to connect to the city’s line near Michigan Street, the city should be able to maintain enough flow to battle fires while the city takes the old well off-line for about two months for repairs.

Construction of the new well should take about six to eight months which will include a storage tank and treatment plant, Wallace said.

Discussion about combining several election districts to reduce the number of poll workers needed was continued Monday. The problem stems from only three voters in some precincts showing for certain elections, said District V Election Commissioner Hilda Owens. Since it costs the county about $100 a day for each of the three poll workers at each precinct, Owens said that each of those votes cost the county $100. Money could be saved if some smaller districts were combined with larger ones.

In addition, primary elections will need a minimum of four card coders for each major political party, District IV Commissioner Bobby Robbins said. There are currently 34 in the county. Robbins said that if the board does not want to combine the precincts, 34 more will be needed. The coders cost about $200 a piece. During the primaries, each precinct will need a minimum of eight poll workers.

District I Supervisor Anthony Hales said he is worried that adjusting the existing precincts will decrease the number of active voters even more. District I Commissioner Idora White said if people really want to vote they will get out and do so, regardless of any changes.

The proposed changes are to combine Whitesand I with Poplarville I; combine Byrd Line 2, Oak Hill 2 and Whitesand 2 with Poplarville 2; combine Ford’s Creek 2 and Buck Branch 2 with the polling place still to be determined; combine Mill Creek 2 with Henleyfield 2; combine Hickory Grove 3 with Gum Pond 3; combine Savannah 3 and Steep Hollow 3 with the polling place still to be determined; move Poplarville 3 to a more suitable location; move Picayune 4 east and west to the National Guard Armory in Picayune, and combine McNeill 5 with Carriere 5.

A meeting with the election commissioners and the executive committee will be held 6 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Pearl River County Justice Center in Millard in the courtroom to discuss the matter further. The meeting will be open to the public.

Some students from Poplarville High School’s student council sat in on the Board meeting. The three students from Poplarville High School’s student council attended the board meeting and asked board members what they do and the scope of their responsibilities.

Thigpen said, “The board of supervisors is basically the policy making body of the county.”

In addition the board handles the recreation, parks and appoints certain representatives, Davis said. The board also handles the financial stability of the county, District II Supervisor Danny Wise said.

“The financial well being of this county begins and ends with the board of supervisors,” Wise said.

County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said that the budget of the county usually runs between $20 and $25 million a year and has 250 full time employees. Lumpkin said his duties are to ensure the orders and decisions set forth by the board are carried out.

One of the most controversial things the board has to deal with are the consequences of change and how residents deal with change.

“Change is hard to handle, and we have to stand by what we do,” Wise said. “We make the best decision that we can based on the information we have at the time of the decision.”

Other responsibilities of the board include county law enforcement, health and well being of the residents, and to regulate building development to ensure safety, Hales said.

The board went in to executive session with A.P. Guizerix on economic development and for legal matters and for personnel matters. Lumpkin was not available for comment on the decisions made after executive session.

In other business the board, accepted a Charter Communications franchise fee remittance of $18,000 for the fourth quarter of 2006.

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Feb. 12 at the Poplarville courthouse.