Ground for two utility projects broken

Published 11:40 pm Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Two sets of projects had ground broken on them Tuesday by the Pearl River County Utility Authority.

The two projects started Tuesday will bring community water to the Hillsdale area and increase water coverage and flow in the Picayune area. Fire hydrants have been added to the Hillsdale and Westchester areas. Utility Authority engineer Brooks Wallace and Department of Environmental Quality director Trudy Fisher said those additions should help lower fire insurance rates in those areas.

In Hillsdale, a well, water treatment facility and 250,000 gallon storage tank will be constructed. In Picayune water and sewer mains will be installed in the Westchester area, along with 10 fire hydrants, according to a press release from MDEQ. Wallace said construction is ongoing for a 750,000 gallon water storage tank near Wheat’s Curve as part of another project not covered in the ground breakings.

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As the Utility Authority board members gathered for their ground breaking ceremony in Hillsdale, a test pump could be heard in the back ground.

“I don’t know about you but that pump back there is music to my ears,” said DEQ’s Fisher as she gave her speech.

Wallace said the test pumps were working to establish which of the two wells the area would use, a 360 foot depth well, or a 1,100 foot depth well. Whichever well provides the best water will be used.

This will make one of multiple projects the Pearl River County Utility Authority has begun to work on. Of the five coastal counties participating in the Gulf Region Utility Act, that agency is the first to begin and finish a project, even before the three coastal counties who already had utility authorities established before Gov. Haley Barbour pushed through the act after Hurricane Katrina, Fisher said.

“So Pearl River County started from scratch and they stayed ahead,” Fisher said.

“They’re definitely the leaders of the pack in the (Gulf Region) Utility Authority,” said Kenneth Yarrow, policy analyst for Governor Barbour’s office.

District IV Supervisor Patrick Lee said he is also impressed with the amount of work the Utility Authority has already accomplished. He said he initially thought that when the Utility Authority was formed, its board would have been run out of town.

With such a good work ethic and a knack for getting projects off the ground, Fisher said she pledged to help the Pearl River County Utility Authority get any extra money she could lay her hands on. Barbour announced that any money left over for projects in the five coastal counties after a September deadline would be reallocated, Fisher said. If there is money left over after the deadline, then she said she would help Pearl River County get some of it.

Fisher said she is also impressed with the amount of teamwork she has seen between the government entities in Pearl River County, including between the Picayune City Council, Poplarville Board of Alderman and the county Board of Supervisors.

Other projects planned include a new sewer treatment plant for the City of Picayune. Interim City Manager Harvey Miller said that if the city taxpayers had to pay for the near $20 million project, then taxes would have increased significantly. Instead it will be paid for with the grant funds available to the Utility Authority.

Pump stations are also planned for the Westchester area, with the construction slated to start sometime in the next few weeks.