Utility Authority gets money for bills, operating cost

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, June 5, 2008

With two municipal waste water systems, a community water and sewer system in its fold and a Community Development Block Grant to help pay past bills, Pearl River County’s Utility Authority could be on its way to financial independence.

At the end of the Wednesday’s meeting in Picayune, authority board members were informed that the authority will receive the about $500,000 in CDBG funds. Authority financial administrator Jason Hicks said the authority will have to turn in cash requests, at which time the money would be sent to the utility authority checking account. So far, the board has incurred about $350,000 in expenses, both paid and unpaid. The utility authority will then have about $150,000 to operate on until the systems they recently acquired begin to collect on bills. Utility Authority board president Steve Lawler still thinks the board needs to be frugal with those funds.

Picayune’s waste water treatment plant, which was acquired by the utility authority earlier this month, came with a loan about which the city council and mayor were not aware. Utility Authority attorney Jeff Hollimon said city officials were unaware of the loan until he informed them of it. That loan was previously being paid with sales tax revenue. The council approved for the utility authority to assume that loan at its meeting on Tuesday. To pay off the loan, city residents will pay a $1 surcharge on waste water treatment beginning July 1. Apparently the loan was taken out by the city’s previous administration to conduct work on the treatment plant, Hollimon said.

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Poplarville’s school district came to the authority to discuss the possibility of building a new school. If the idea came to fruition, after public hearings and a vote on a bond issue, the school district wanted to know where the best locations for sewer and water would be. Lawler said the school district is still in preliminary discussions about the issue and no concrete plans have been established. Soon the district will begin holding public meetings to present recommendations to residents, said Gary Bailey, of Bailey Architecture.

Mark Gibson sent his project manager, Reggie Oliver, to ask the Utility Authority about billing Liberty Road Trailer Park residents for water. Oliver said that the Department of Health told Gibson that water service at the park needed renovations. He will have to install a storage tank and hire an operator. To offset those costs bills will need charged, Oliver said.

The board decided to enter into discussions with Gibson and Oliver to allow them to charge rates to their existing customers and not to expand the coverage area. Once the utility authority runs water lines in the area, the authority would provide water to the trailer park.

A motor bearing appears to be out at the Poplarville waste water treatment plant. A replacement bearing is available, but a stand will need to be constructed so the faulty motor bearing can be replaced, said Mike Spitzer, with Southwest Water. The cost to replace the bearing will be about $1,200, Spitzer said. The utility board approved having the bearing replaced.

The board went into executive session to discuss the possibility of hiring an executive director. Lawler said Wednesday evening that he did not expect the board to make a motion on the matter. He was unavailable for comment Thursday morning.

The board also;

— Approved a motion to allow three-acre parcels with on-site waste water treatment in areas with community water.

— Acknowledged conceptual designs for the Picayune regional water supply system and the Poplarville regional wastewater treatment facility and transmission system.

— Approved a motion for Spitzer to formulate a price and design for septic tank haulers to dispose of the waste, possibly in Poplarville.

The next Utility Authority meeting is at 2 p.m. July 2, at Poplarville City Hall.