Utility Authority says it has taken no position regarding subdivision

Published 4:43 pm Friday, July 20, 2007

Thursday evening, members and representatives of the Pearl River County Utility Authority answered questions about several issues, including claims by Mark Gibson of G9 Investments that the utility authority would assess extra fees to pay for the installation of sewer and water systems in the Pearl River Lake Estates subdivision.

“The authority has never had an official position regarding the G9 project,” said Jeffrey Hollimon, attorney for the authority.

Authority president Steve Lawler said Gibson’s project would not be the authority’s concern until an agreement was made between Gibson and the authority for the authority to take over the sewer and water system in the subdivision. However, Lawler said the authority has had no official discussions with Gibson, and did not want to speculate on what “might happen”.

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Wallace said he and Hollimon had met with Gibson and answered questions about the project, but no official decisions had been made regarding the G9 project.

Wallace said that if any developer installs a sewer system in a subdivision, and then turns that system over to the utility authority, the authority has the power to assess special tap fees, but the amount would vary by location. Otherwise, Wallace said, the authority would assess a standard tap fee to tie into a system belonging to the authority.

Hollimon said the law states that any developer wishing to install a sewer and water system would have to have the approval of the authority. If the developer does not go through the authority, he would have to be certified and approved by the Mississippi Public Service Commission.

Wallace said the authority’s regulations on lot size supersede the requirements of the State Health Department, but that they do not apply to existing platted lots, such as those in Pearl River Lake Estates.

“Minimum size will not apply to pre-existing subdivisions,” Wallace said.

He said the majority of the lots in Pearl River Lake Estates will not support individual septic tanks, and would require a tie-in to a central system, should one become available.

Lawler said current property owners may have to tie into a central system once it becomes available.

“Once a central system is within a certain number of feet of a property, the authority can give notice to that property owner to tie in to the central system. After notice is given, the owner would then have one year to tie into the system,” Lawler said.

Lawler said the authority would not necessarily make the owner tie into the system if the system the property owner is using is fully operational and poses no health hazards.

“It would be a decision of the utility authority on a case-by-case basis,” Lawler said. “It’s always been our intention that if an individual had a working system, we do not want to have to force them (to tie in).”

Another issue discussed was the $300 permit fee that is assessed by the authority. Wallace said developers are assessed a fee of $50 per lot when plans are submitted for subdivisions, in order to have the subdivision plans reviewed. However, the $300 fee is a new construction permit review fee, and is assessed when an actual building is being built and an application for a septic permit is made, whether it is to tie into an existing central system or to install a septic tank.

“The authority does not have a regular source of income or a tax levy to pay for operating the system,” Lawler said.

The permit fee is to help pay administrative fees such as secretarial, bookkeeping, and accounting fees. “It’s an administrative cost fee,” he said.

On another matter, Lawler said he authority has been awarded a $2.2 million grant for construction of a water facility for the city of Poplarville and the northern end of the county.

“This is not strictly for the city of Poplarville,” Lawler said. “Poplarville will benefit first, but it will also benefit north and northeast of Poplarville. It’s a regional concept.”

Wallace said bids for the project will be advertised by the end of July and accepted by the end of August. Construction should begin by the middle of September, and is expected to last 180 calendar days, Wallace said.

“A reasonable expectation (for completion) is the end of March,” he said.

Wallace also said the authority has asked the health department to start lifting the building moratorium for Poplarville, but that hasn’t happened yet.