Real estate hears from authority

Published 10:32 pm Saturday, March 17, 2007

County Realtors had a visit from the Pearl River County Utility Authority president at their association’s recent meeting to discuss the changes that have been made and will be in effect to help ensure high property values now and in the future.

Bruce Kammer, member of the now officially re-named Pearl River Board of Realtors, said while the popular opinion of the Pearl River County Utility Authority is not very good due to misinformation, the authority is working to organize the county to ensure there is something to be proud of in generations to come.

Authority president Steve Lawler addressed some major issues and questions Realtors had at their meeting Friday afternoon.

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The first Regional Waste Water Plan draft set forth by the state legislature to form the utility authority was turned down by the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors until some changes were made in the bill, Lawler said. Today the Pearl River County Utility Authority is on the leading edge of the five coastal counties participating in the Regional Waste Water Plan, he said.

Lawler said the authority hopes to break ground on the new well and water storage tank for the Poplarville area within 60 days. The authority plans to run a 12- to 14-inch water main along U.S. 11 to help supply water to the area surrounding Poplarville. Not only will this provide water for that area, it will give Poplarville a chance to repair its water system.

While Lawler will admit that the authority’s rules and regulations and the newly implemented county building codes are hot items in residents’ minds, those things will lead to a better county in the long run. He challenged any county resident to travel to another area where other counties and cities the size of Picayune, Poplarville and Pearl River County have implemented same things being implemented here. Not only are those economies growing, but their real estate values are up. In contrast, areas without such regulations are not growing, he said.

Utility Authority fees have met with stiff resistance since they were implemented in January. Lawler said those fees are necessary for the authority to hire the professional services of engineering firms and legal firms. Initially, the authority went to the county and city governments to see if they could help fund the authority while it gets off the ground, but those governments also were strapped for money, he said. In response, the authority had to set up a fee structure. So far the authority has accrued about $100,000 in professional expenses, but no member of the authority board has been paid a dime. Each member works on a voluntary basis, Lawler said.

Rural and city water providers are concerned that the authority will try to take over their operations. Lawler said that will not happen.

“We have no desire to do that,” Lawler said.

However, any certificated area expansions or new wells by those water providers will have to be approved by the authority, Lawler said.

The fee structure was set up so as not to put the burden on citizens already living here when the authority came into being and who have no plans to change their existing water and waste water services. Even though there are many failing individual home systems in the county — about 75 percent of them, he estimated — the authority will have nothing to do with them unless the property and house are sold, Lawler said. Where the property is being sold, an inspection will need to be done to ensure the waste water system is working properly. Then that system, along with all new systems, will be added to the authority’s data base so the systems can be inspected every five years.

In spite of what the implementation of authority and building code regulations will do for the county, there will be people who will resist.

“We have a lot of people in Pearl River County who do not like change,” Lawler said.

The Utility Authority meets every first Monday of the month, alternating between Picayune’s and Poplarville’s city halls as meeting places. The next meeting is at 6 p.m. April 2 at the Picayune City Hall, formerly Arizona Chemical. The public is invited to attend to have concerns addressed. If there are questions residents or Realtors may have before then or between meetings about what the utility authority is trying to do, they can contact Brooks Wallace with Dungan Engineering.

In other business the Pearl River Board of Realtors dealt with some off topic issues.

As a statistic, the real estate business has picked up so much business and there are so many displaced Realtors in the area that Pearl River County has taken on 35 to 40 more Realtors since Hurricane Katrina, said Bruce Kammer.

During their meeting, the board approved a motion to cancel the name Pearl River County Board of Realtors and go by the name Pearl River Board of Realtors.