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Utility Authority awarded grant for Poplarville water well, tank

Thursday’s meeting of the Pearl River County Utility Authority was highlighted by the awarding of a grant for installation of increased water infrastructure for the Poplarville area and the resignation of authority vice president Don Durham.

The water well that will be part of the North Pearl River County Water and Well Tank Project has been approved, providing the necessary funding for the project providing some insurance matters are resolved. The well and water storage tank will provide the additional water needed by the City of Poplarville and the surrounding communities, said authority president Steve Lawler.

“The process we’re going through has never been done before,” Lawler said.

The authority approved a motion for Lawler to sign the Community Development Block Grant for the well and tank since the insurance requirements are expected to be met in time for the grant to be awarded.

After the authority approved that motion, resident Mark Hines asked the authority to reconsider where the new well and storage tank are being placed. Hines said the area next to the Poplarville hospital, where the well and tank are slated to be built, is a prime area to build more medical buildings.

“You got a piece of property there that has tremendous potential for the city of Poplarville,” Hines said.

Hines said Poplarville already is experiencing a doctor shortage and that looking to the future of the city would involve taking the need for more medical care into consideration.

Durham said the authority will take into consideration any encroachment on the hospital and asked Brooks Wallace with Dungan Engineering to explain the current plan.

Wallace said the well will be placed in the center of an eight acre plot of land near the hospital in Poplarville. This plan will leave about two four acre plots of land available for future development. There also will be a water treatment plant to ensure the water has the correct pH balance, he said.

Lawler said that site has been reviewed and approved by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. Hines’ main concern was that the authority leaves room for the hospital to grow, which could lead to growth in the surrounding community. Lawler said the aim of the authority is to assist in the growth of the county, not hinder it.

“We want to do something that is going to help the community grow,” Lawler said.

“We have bumped heads with everybody that we can bump heads with,” he said. “The fact is, we just simply can’t make everyone happy.”

The recently adopted authority rules and regulations and county-wide building codes will ensure the county’s children and grandchildren will have a county to be proud of, Lawler said. If residents were to look at other counties that have established similar regulations, they would see the good expected in the long run.

“When you do that, the county and cities all prosper, when you don’t you get a hodgepodge they have to clean up,” Lawler said.

Durham said the authority will hold planning conference from 10 a.m. to noon Monday, March 19, at Dungan Engineering with Dungan, MDEQ, the authority’s law firm Butler, Snow and the Mississippi Development Authority to set a path and schedule for the North Pearl River County Water and Well Tank Project.

In another matter, Durham announced his is stepping down from the authority. He said during his time with the authority he and the other members have accomplished many things, all at a price to his professional and personal responsibilities. He said that now that a plan is in place, fees have been established, the well project is under way and about $56 million has been promised to the authority, he plans to spend more time with his family and work.

“All we gotta do now is execute,” Durham said.

The authority’s members were unhappy with Durham’s announcement, stating they will miss his contributions.

This announcement will leave the authority two members short since the City of Picayune still has not nominated a replacement for Glade Woods, who left the authority shortly after retiring from the City of Picayune.

The authority asked Pearl River County Board of Supervisors president Bettye Stockstill to help them appoint a replacement for Durham.

“We need a full board, we need a functioning board and we need to carry through with what our plans are,” Lawler said. “I don’t think the citizens of Pearl River County have realized what we have accomplished today.”

Stockstill said she has someone in mind and expects an answer from that person within days and will check with the board for a final decision.

The authority is seeking more grants to help meet its expenses, Lawler said. He said the finance committee will have a treasurer’s report for the next meeting. The current balance is $40,050, but there are still three invoices to pay.

“It’s not money we got, it’s money we got to have to pay invoices,” Lawler said.

— Approved Dungan Engineering to be the engineering representation, Sample and Associates to be the administrative representation and Butler, Snow to the legal representation for the authority for all future grants.

— Asked the financial committee to meet with Alexander VanLoom Accounting and Nicholson Accounting to handle auditing needs and have the financial committee report back to the authority at the next meeting.

— Approved Bowman and Rickett to do the authority’s daily accounting.

The next authority meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday, April 2, at the new city hall in Picayune.