Picayune plans to work with Utility Authority

Published 6:03 pm Thursday, November 8, 2007

Picayune needs a new waste water treatment plant and discussions with the Pearl River County Utility Authority are going ahead to help secure one, said City Manager Ed Pinero, Jr.

The holdup to which Utility Authority President Steve Lawler made reference at the authority’s Monday night meeting actually is being caused by the city’s efforts to communicate with residents of the city about the need for the plant and to try to prevent misconceptions from cropping up about what is taking place, Pinero said.

Contrary to comments at Monday’s Pearl River County Utility Authority, negotiations with the City of Picayune have not ceased due to a lack of communication, the city manager said.

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The current waste water treatment plant Picayune is using is at full capacity, he said. A new $28 million treatment facility is proposed, and is expected to be funded by the Utility Authority to give the city the expansion room it needs.

However, before the city can move forward with the negotiations with the utility authority, city officials need to talk with the citizens to ensure they have no misconceptions concerning the fee structure for the new facility and what kind of power the Utility Authority will have within the city limits, Pinero said. Community meetings will take place this month to inform citizens about what is planned. Residents should be contacted by their council member, or someone representing the council member, about meeting dates. Also, the meeting dates will be published or broadcast by local media.

“We just don’t want to make those kind of decisions in a vacuum,” Pinero said. “We definitely want to make sure our citizens are informed.”

No matter what the city does, the Utility Authority will have a presence in the county, since its formation was mandated by the Mississippi Legislature, he said.

Ideally, the city wants to form a relationship with the Utility Authority that will work, while providing the citizens of the city with a more suitable treatment plant, the city manager said. Pinero said the current system, while functional, is aging and at full capacity and lots of new development is coming into the city.

“We are at the point of capacity where we cannot add any more major developments to our waste water treatment plant,” he said.

Pinero said there is enough capacity in the current plant for what is already planned, including the new hotel.

If a new plant is built the current plant will continue to function, but at 50 percent capacity. The other 50 percent of the waste water currently being treated in Picayune will be redirected to the new plant, giving the city more room for growth.

A location for the new plant has not been determined, but the city is looking at sites in the western part of town.

Pinero said he plans to have a meeting with the Utility Authority sometime after the Thanksgiving holiday. Previous meetings with the authority have been positive, and Pinero said he expects the city and the authority will come to an agreement.

The plant will be the property and responsibility of the Utility Authority, if it is constructed. Fees to hook up to city water and sewage services currently run about $100, and Pinero said he hopes that through negotiations with the authority, the cost will remain about the same.