Water, natural gas rates are increasing

Published 4:11 pm Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Picayune City Council voted last night to increase water and natural gas rates because the city has been operating at a loss in those areas, but not date for the increases to take effect has been set because the ordinance has to be published as a legal notice in the newspaper at least 30 days before such increases can take effect.

The last rate increases took place in 1993.

City Clerk Amber Hinton presented the new rate schedule to the council during its Tuesday evening meeting. The new rates will be $16.25 for the first 4,000 gallons of water and $2.15 for each additional 1,000 gallons for residential water inside the city limits. For residential water service outside the city limits, the rates will be $32.25 for the first 3,000 gallons and $3.75 for each additional 1,000 gallons. Commercial rates will be $21.25 for the first 4,000 gallons inside the city limits and $32.25 outside the city limits, with charges of $2.15 and $3.75 for each additional 1,000 gallons respectively, according to the ordinance passed by the council.

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Natural gas rates also have increased. Residential and commercial rates will now be $11.25 for up to the first 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas, and each additional $11 per MMBtu.

Council member Leavern Guy objected to the rates increasing so much. While he said that rising fuel prices cause other costs to increase, he objected to the amount. Councilman Larry Watkins said the rates are needed for the city to be economically sound since the city is losing money every month.

“We are losing money right now in the sale of gas,” Watkins said.

After some more debate between Guy and the other council members, the council approved the rate schedule with Guy voting against the increases. More information on the new rate schedule is available at city hall upon request.

The Utility Authority will assume operations of the city sewer services as of July 1, and Utility Authority rates will apply to that service. Those rates will be $16.25 for the initial 4,000 gallons of meter waterusage each month, plus $2.15 per each additional 1,000 gallons

Citizens attended the council meeting to oppose the possibility of Stone Treated Materials reopening. Melanie Griggs and Larry Breeland asked for the council’s support in ensuring the wood treatment facility does not reopen. Council members said they are adamantly opposed to the plant reopening and they asked all residents to attend the public hearing set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 24, at the Picayune Memorial High School Auditorium.

Thanks to a Homeland Security Grant secured by Fire Chief Keith Brown, the council’s chambers will have a metal detector. The $3,300 grant will pay 100 percent of the cost of the metal detector and it will be ordered today, Brown said.

Two members of the community were honored for their hard work and dedication. Jo Scheel and Reba Bebee were honored for their efforts with Picayune Main Street.

In other business, the council went into executive session to discuss a contractual matter with Neel-Schaffer, personnel matter and a contractual mater with Partners for Pearl River County. Only the matter with Neel-Schaffer saw the council take action with their approval of phase two on Memorial Boulevard proceeding.

The council also;

— Approved grant award for $52,000 from State of Mississippi Department of Public Safety Division of Public Safety Planning to purchase two new Dodge Chargers for the Police Department.

— Approved a request for cash to the Mississippi Development Authority for design engineering services for the new fire station.

The council’s next meeting is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 1, in the council’s chambers.