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Poplarville Board of Aldermen says “Yes” to Utility Authority

The Poplarville Board of Aldermen approved a contract for the Pearl River County Utility Authority to provide part of the water needed by the City of Poplarville.

The Authority and the Board of Aldermen met Tuesday evening to discuss issues raised last week about the addition of the city to area the utility authority will supply with water. Poplarville retains control over that portion of its water system that was in place prior to the establishment of the utility authority.

The board was presented with an amended contract that guaranteed the city’s right to consume water from the utility’s supply, guaranteed sufficient water quantity to serve 1,600 residential connections and obligated slightly more than 19 million gallons of water per month to the city.

The board had met with the utility authority last week and questions were raised about the amount of water that would be available to the city if the city accepted the utility authority’s proposal.

“We did meet the day after (last week’s meeting), … and what we were looking at was how much water we could get into the city,” said city engineer Don Walker.

“We believe we have worked out the solution to the concerns about the amount of water the utility authority could provide the town. … The engineering concerns have been answered,” said Les Dungan of Dungan Engineering.

Walker said one of the problems dealt with an alternative to valving off the city’s current water supply.

“One way obviously to do that is to let the authority’s tank be an overriding tank,” said Walker.

Walker said this would require an altitude valve on the existing Cumberland tank and a pressure valve at the outflow line of the utility authority’s tank. Walker said there really is no way to know exactly how much water the city can get at different times, but that the city would receive the benefits of both tanks at peak demand times.

Utility authority president Steve Lawler told the mayor and aldermen that the authority wants to make sure that Poplarville residents receive the value out of the water supply that they are paying for.

“If we cannot create value for you, then it’s not a good situation,” said Lawler. “It would appear to me that there ought to be a way that this authority and this board can get together to improve the water system in the city of Poplarville and give the city of Poplarville a fair and equitable value for their water system.”

Alderman Shirley Wiltshire was concerned about the utility authority’s fees that would be assessed on new taps on the system in addition to the city’s current fees.

“We’re allotting so many taps within the city, so why should they pay another fee that we already know they’re allotted taps for?” asked Wiltshire.

“We don’t want to charge those fees, but if we don’t, we’re going to end up not having enough money to do what we have to do,” said Lawler. “It would’ve been great if the legislature would have provided funding for the utility authorities, but they didn’t.”

Brooks Wallace, an engineer with Dungan Engineering, presented the board with a spreadsheet that explained the rate structure.

“The theoretical design volume that we can give you with 1,600 connections is 19.2 million gallons. That’s the maximum that we can give you with the 1,600 connections that we’re reserving for the City of Poplarville,” said Wallace.

Wallace said the minimum required usage will be one-third of the maximum capacity, which averages out to be about 6.4 million gallons. The rate for the minimum usage will be $1.35 per thousand gallons, with overage cost at $.50 per thousand.

City Superintendent of Maintenance Sam Hale asked how could they tell if the Cumberland tank was accumulating stagnant water.

Wallace said a meter would be put at the Cumberland tank so the city and utility authority can keep track of how much water was being turned over.

Another issue raised was what the usage of an altitude valve at the Cumberland tank would do for the city’s fire flow.

“It’s my understanding the altitude valve will prevent your tank from overflowing. … Under fire flow conditions, you have a pressure drop because of the demand which allows your Cumberland tank to come online in a full sense. It won’t restrict the amount of water your tank will contribute to a fire flow condition,” Dungan said.

“When we take our tank off-line, will we have sufficient water to provide the protection of the citizens of Poplarville? I want to make sure that Poplarville is protected,” Alderman Bill Winborn asked.

“We’re not going to leave you or do something to you that would cause you to not be able to protect the citizens of Poplarville,” said Lawler.

After the discussion, the board voted to approve the contract with the utility authority, with Alderman John Sherman abstaining from the vote.

“There’s some lingering questions,” said Alderman John Grant, Jr., “but there are always going to be. … You can’t engineer all uncertainty out of any project.”

Wiltshire asked how soon the city could start getting taps on the utility authority’s water.

Utility authority attorney Jeffrey Holliman said the contract has to go to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for approval but that he hopes it will be expedited.