Utility Authority may have $9 million in extra project funds

Published 2:57 am Sunday, June 21, 2009

A number of water and waste water projects underway by the Pearl River County Utility Authority are under budget.

That could leave as much as $9.7 million available for other projects, provided the funds are not allocated to other counties participating in the Gulf Region Water and Wastewater Plan who are running projects over budget.

Utility Authority Engineer Brooks Wallace said that from all the water and sewer projects that are underway, including those in Picayune and Poplarville, there is almost $7 million allocated to those project that won’t be spent, if they are completed as planned. An additional $2.7 million in contingency funds could be available if those sewer do not require the money. The only project that has Wallace concerned about keeping those contingency funds is the Poplarville waste water plant. Since the new plant will be constructed on the existing site, there could be unknown problems with the site that could eat up the contingency funds.

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Wallace suggested leaving the contingency funds where they are until the projects are complete, in case unexpected expenses arise. He said he hopes that the funds left over are not taken away from this Utility Authority and given to another Utility Authority that may have gone over budget on their projects.

Those funds, if left with the PRCUA, could be used for a number of projects. A new well might be needed in the Poplarville area since the Utility Authority has obligated about 80 percent of a recently completed well’s capacity to the Poplarville and Lumberton areas. Other projects for the extra funds could involve working with Nicholson Water Association or Hide-A-Way Lake on upgrading their services.

Picayune’s new waste water plant, to be built on land adjacent to the new city hall, has been given notice to proceed as early as July 6. Wallace expects to be able to hold a ground breaking ceremony in the first or second week of July.

The water well project in Hillsdale is nearing completion. Wallace expects the rest of the lines to be installed and the whole project to be complete within three weeks.

Westchester residents seen improvements in their water service as well. Nearly every home in the subdivision has new water meters, which are being read regularly. Wallace said those meters are being read manually, but once the Utility Authority obtains laptops, those meters can be read from the roadside.

Anyone who travels along Mississippi Highway 43 North towards Wheat’s Curve has seen the new water tower under construction. Wallace said he expects that tank to receive a coat of paint in the next month or so.

The economy has provided some good news for the Utility Authority. Southwest Water Company District Manager Jeff Blackwell told board members that after examination of the economy, Southwest has been able to lower their rates by as much as $600 a month.

“I couldn’t believe it myself, but it’s good news for you guys,” Blackwell said.

Virginia Reems with Policy Center Insurance gave the Utility Authority a quote on insuring their assets. She said the PRCUA’s organized staff and records enabled her to provide them with an accurate quote quickly.

“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” Reems said.

Reems suggested the Authority insure itself against water pollution, failure to supply and loss of income. The water pollution would cover the it in case there is a chlorine malfunction that could affect wildlife or stock. The failure to supply coverage would insure the agency against fire damage to a structure due to a water service malfunction. Loss of income would insure the Authority in case another Hurricane Katrina-level storm damages pumps or records.

The authority took her quote under advisement and will make a decision later.

An obstruction in a sewage line will require a point line repair. Work on the lines was being conducted by a company contracted by the City of Picayune before the city handed over the sewage system to the Utility Authority. Roger Colwell with Hartman Engineering said the city entered into a contract with Necaise Brothers Construction to conduct a preliminary investigation of the sewer system using Environmental Protection Agency grant funds. During that investigation, which is ongoing, one of the company’s line cutters became lodged in a collapsed line.

Authority board member Ike Lewis said he is concerned that with the line being blocked that there is the possibility of sewage backing up into a resident’s home. Colwell said he has made attempts to contact representatives with the city to get the line repaired but it appears the three people he has to talk to for authorization to do the repairs have all taken vacation in the same week. Wallace suggested two options for the board to considered: Either pay to have the repairs done and send the bill to the city, or send the city a letter notifying it of the situation and alert city officials to the fact that they would be liable for any damages to a person’s home if the sewage backs up.

The board decided to send the city the letter of notification.

The board will hold a recessed meeting at 3 p.m. July 1, at the Picayune City Hall.