Utility authority debates exemptions

Published 5:39 pm Tuesday, August 7, 2007

When it comes to paying fees set forth by the Pearl River County Utility Authority government, school, emergency responder and faith based organizations all would like to be exempt.

The Utility Authority Board of Directors debated over what agencies, if any, should be exempt from their fees and if so by how much. The spark to the debate came when the Henleyfield Volunteer Fire Department, Pearl River County School District and the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors on the behalf of church and government projects all asked to be exempt.

“I don’t see us working out something that is not very equitable for them,” said board president Steve Lawler.

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Board attorney Jeff Hollimon suggested following the board of supervisors example in the matter, but Pearl River County Planning and Development Director Harold Holmes said the fire department and schools have had to pay for county permit fees in the past.

In a previous meeting with the board of supervisors, Holmes and Hollimon said no exemptions were specified by the board.

County schools Assistant Superintendent Nina Guthrie asked for exemption on three still to be delivered temporary buildings the school district needs to hook to their existing lagoon system. The additional buildings will allow the district to have room to accommodate additional students. The board decided to group all three requests together and discuss the matter further. Lawler assured Guthrie that they would do what they could to help the district with their request.

“In order for us to provide the best education for our students we have to pinch every penny that we can,” Guthrie said.

After the board came out of executive session, it approved a motion to allow the exemption of the schools, fire stations and churches, Lawler said.

Julie Mitchell, who is trying to open her own salon, also asked the board of directors for an exemption for the $2,000 commercial charge to convert an old office building to accommodate her business needs. The electrical and water have previously been approved so she is confused why she has pay the utility authority.

The board decided to send her request to the Utility Authority Technical committee for further study.

Board member Hoppy Cole presented a financial report stating that for the month of July the Authority collected $43,600 in deposits, spent $25,107.50 and had a remaining balance of $36,073.50 in the account.

The board went into executive session to discuss acquiring land for utility authority operations. No decision was made at press time, but Lawler said more information will be disclosed in open session when a decision is reached concerning the matter.

In other business the board:

— Approved for Lawler to sign a grant for $2.39 million for the construction of the North Pearl River County Water Project, which will allow Poplarville to open 1,600 new water taps. Other grants were signed for the Poplarville waste water treatment facility, Picayune waste water treatment plant and Picayune water supply.

— Appointed Diane Burch as secretary/clerk for the board.

— Approved advertising for professional appraisal services for right of way acquisition.

The board of directors next meets at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28, where bids will be opened for the North Pearl River County Water Project.

The next regular meeting of the authority is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, at Poplarville City Hall.