HAWL citizens ask for board’s help

Published 5:34 pm Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Citizens representing the residents of Hide-A-Way Lake asked the board for help with a matter regarding the south exit out of the gated subdivision at the board meeting on Monday.

Bruce DeVillier, general manager of the Hide-A-Way Lake Club, said in a phone interview Monday afternoon that the subdivision has been involved in a disagreement over the south gate exit with the City of Picayune since December 2006.

“Back in 2006, the Picayune City Council said close the south gate exit, and although we did not feel it was right, we complied with the request. It remained closed until we reopened it in January of 2007. The next day, the city put a police car at the entrance, blocking the road,” DeVillier said.

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DeVillier said the subdivision has been given two reasons for the closure of the exit, that the exit violates the regulations in Hide-A-Way Lake’s covenants and that the road is unsafe due to the volume of traffic coming in and out of the subdivision.

“For people to say the exit is against our covenants is just an outright lie. It has been said that Hide-A-Way Lake had an agreement with the City of Picayune not to use the gate, but I’ve never seen such an agreement,” DeVillier said.

DeVillier said in August of 2007, representatives of HAWL, the City of Picayune, County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin and former District V Supervisor Bettye Stockstill met to discuss the traffic on the road, but no agreement was reached.

“Adrain had a good idea. He said open the gate for two weeks and count the traffic and see what was needed. The city told us they would get back with us, but they came back later and would not give us authorization to do the study,” DeVillier said.

DeVillier told the board, “Hide-A-Way Lake is not liked, but we are regular citizens, regular people who are paying for the choice of being private, and we’re working hard to change the mentality against us.”

District I Supervisor Anthony Hales said he did not think there was anything the county could do for the subdivision, but said the board would look into the matter.

“I don’t think we have much influence with the city (of Picayune). People sometimes just see things different ways… We often find we have the same problems that you have,” Hales said.

DeVillier said HAWL has hired an attorney and filed a lawsuit against the City of Picayune to open the gate, but so far, nothing has been settled.

“We’ve been before two judges, and although they haven’t given official rulings, they have recommended things, and Picayune appeals everything the judges say. They’re trying to bleed us to death with the legal system,” DeVillier said.

The board agreed to look into and see if there is any action they can take in the matter.

Mike Rester, environmental supervisor for the Mississippi Department of Health, came before the board to answer questions about wastewater problems in the county.

Lumpkin said the county has been getting complaints about raw sewage and septic tanks not being hooked up, and asked Rester to tell the board how the complaints are handled through the health department.

“Once we get a complaint, we normally log it, and go out to confirm if we can be involved or if state law has been violated. At that point, we find out who owns the property and approach the owner. We try to work with them on site, but we have to deal specifically with the owner. If there is cooperation involved, usually it’s just a matter of understanding what has to be done,” Rester said.

Rester said sometimes enforcement actions are relied upon, such as the issuance of an enforcement notice, which gives the property owner 30 days to correct the problem. If the owner does not respond to the notice, Rester said the law allows for penalties up to $500 per day until the problem is corrected and possible jail time for the property owner.

Rester said anyone who notices a problem of non-compliance can file a complaint by calling the health department at (601) 798-5354. Rester said the call will be forwarded to the correct department, and all complaints are evaluated. More information can be found on the department’s website at www.healthyms.com.

Coy Jones cam back before the board and said he had received a letter from the county stating he had 30 days to clean up his property or the county would take his land. Jones had been before the board the previous week asking about a county official who was taking pictures of his property and asking him to clean it up.

“I’ve been cleaning up since the storm. I’ve been hauling stuff to the county barn for two years. Not every week, but I’m disabled. I have to have time to get my property cleaned,” Jones said.

Planning and Development Director Ed Pinero said he had determined a county code enforcement officer had been to Jones’ property and taken pictures of the residence.

Hales told Jones he felt like the county could work with Jones as long as Jones was making the effort to clean up his property.

“We’re not trying to force you into something you can’t afford to do,” Hales said.

District III Hudson Holliday agreed that the county would work with Jones.

“There’s worse places in the county than yours. If you’re going to try to continue to clean up, that’s what we want. You’re doing what we want you to do. We’ll give you all the time you need to do what you need to do,” Holliday said.

Jones said one problem he was having with the cleanup of his property is that he has nowhere to haul some of the items on his land.

“Unfortunately, landfills are not popular things in Pearl River County, and people don’t understand the need for them. A study was done in the comprehensive plan, and it recommended three rubbish sites in the county, one in the north, one in the south, and one in the middle. Every time you mention it, people want to file lawsuits and get it put up for a vote, but when you do that, the needs of the people are not served,” Hales responded.

Jones said he would continue to make an effort to clean his property, but wanted to be sure he would not be punished for the time it is taking.

“I don’t want to go to jail or have my land taken… I’ve got news for ya’ll. I’m 100 percent redneck. I don’t want any problems,” Jones said.

Hales said there as long as Jones worked with the county and continued to attempt to clean the property, there would be no problems.

In other business, the board:

— Accepted Charter Communications quarterly franchise fee payment.

— Accepted reimbursements #50 and #51 from FEMA in the combined amount of $250,316.76.

— Approved request from coroner’s office to hire part-time secretary.

— Approved signing request for payment from waste tire grant.

The board recessed until Monday, May 12 at 9 a.m.