Utility Authority seeking easements

Published 1:57 am Sunday, April 12, 2009

One Pearl River County resident is very vocal about his opposition to the Pearl River County Utility Authority wanting to purchase an easement on his land.

Clinton Creel, a resident of Miss. 43 N. has been sent a letter from the Utility Authority asking for permission to purchase an easement on his property. Creel feels the Utility Authority is trying to purchase part of his land, and fears they will attempt to impose immanent domain if they don’t get what they want.

“When ever the government forces you to do things this is not America,” Creel said.

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The letter sent to Creel in February from the Utility Authority is requesting a 25 foot easement in front of Creel’s property, for about $950. Creel estimates his property is worth $20,000 an acre. However Utility Authority Attorney Jeff Holliman said the Utility Authority is not attempting to purchase his land, instead they only want to have legal access to install and maintain water and sewer lines.

“Property is not being taken,” Holliman said. “We’re just looking for the right to put a water line down and maintain it.”

While Holliman said he could not comment on individual cases, he did say aim of the Utility Authority in the water project along Miss. 43 N. will be to purchase easements along that highway from the water well and water tank site south to Picayune. Once the easement is granted the land will remain the property of the landowner, the Utility Authority will only have legal rights to install and maintain their lines, he said.

Initially the plan is to install 12 inch water mains from the site of the 750,000 gallon water tank and adjacent well on Miss. 43 N. That main will run south along Miss. 43 N. from the site of the well to Picayune and connect to the Stemwood tank in Picayune. Holliman said this connection will provide the city with the water needs they may experience in an emergency and also allow future expansions in that area, including the planned hospital.

After construction of the new lines Holliman said each land owners’ property will be restored to its pre-construction state. If a line is to be installed under a hard surface driveway, that will be done using a boring method, leaving the driveway intact. Any grass or other plant life that is disturbed will be replaced, Holliman said.

The well and tank will not only serve Picayune but also the former Dixie Utility area along Liberty Road, Timber Lane and the Westchester Heights residential areas. Holliman said while the initial plan is to install only water lines at this time, future plans include a water treatment plant, so sewer lines will also be required once funding has been found. In order to meet the current and future demands of those projects the 25 foot easement is necessary, since the water and sewer lines need to be placed 10 feet apart. Holliman did not have a tentative timeline for construction of the water treatment plant or sewer lines since funding will be required to conduct the work.

Creel is concerned if he grants the Utility Authority the easement they desire they could build or erect any thing they want along that easement. Holliman said that would not be the case since it would be unwise to build anything on top of a water main, which is part of the reason they need to secure easements. Once easements are granted to the Utility Authority then property owners would be unable to build on top of the water lines. Property owners would however be allowed to plant foliage on the easements. Also property owners would not be allowed to dig in easements. That restriction would help avoid damage to the underground water and future sewer lines, even though those lines will be installed 36 feet under the ground, Holliman said.

With the installation of the new water line comes lower insurance rates. Fire hydrants will be installed every 1,000 feet along with the new water main. Holliman said this means any home along that water main will be no more than 500 feet from a fire hydrant and be capable of providing 1,000 gallons a minute of fire flow, which will lower fire insurance rates.

Connection to the new water main for those along the water main route will not be mandatory as previously thought. Holliman said the only time hook up to the water main will be mandatory will be if the Mississippi Health Department makes it mandatory. However if residents along the route elect to connect to the water main during construction then the meter and tap will be provided free of charge. If the resident decides to connect at a later date then they will most likely be charged for the water meter and the tap.

Holliman said anyone who has questions or concerns about the project can attend the next Utility Authority board meeting to be held 2 p.m. Thursday at the Picayune City Hall on N. Beech Street.