Council continues infrastructure repairs

Published 2:39 pm Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The city wide water meter replacement program is expected to begin construction in April and more and more water line leaks have been found as part of the city’s wide paving project, but both repairs have been needed for some time.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the Picayune City Council Mayor Ed Pinero Jr. asked for public response concerning the proposed Mississippi Development Authority Cap loan, which will fund the replacement of every water meter in the city. The new meters will be more accurate and can be read wirelessly.

Water rates will be used to pay off the loan, not rate increases, Pinero said. He said those funds are intended for maintaining the system, instead of using them to balance the general fund.

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“We’re doing what should have been done a long time ago, we’re investing back into the system,” Pinero said.

Previous stories in the Item indicated the previous administration had used water rates to balance the general fund, leaving the city’s infrastructure without maintenance for some time.

City Engineer Brooks Wallace said the meter replacement project will go out for bids in February, those bids will be opened in March and construction will begin in April. Once construction starts Wallace expects the project to be complete in 120 days.

Correlating with infrastructure needs Wallace asked the council to consider getting another quote for more water line repairs, up to $50,000 worth. This is the second such quote, the first has already reached $48,000 and conducted 41 line repairs, Wallace said. At times workers involved in the city wide paving project find three to four new water line leaks a day, so Wallace expects another such request before the project is done since the project is only 30 percent complete.

The repairs are part of the city wide paving project to ensure not only that the water lines will not leak, but the new paving job will last. The funds to conduct the repairs are also coming out of the utility funds. The council approved the request.

The council also discussed amending a city ordinance relating to extending natural gas services to a new development. City Attorney Nathan Farmer said the proposed amendment would ask developers to pay for or share in the cost to extend service lines to new developments. Wallace suggested the council consider adding a clause in the amendment that would limit the requirement so that the expense to the developer to tie into the natural gas system would not potentially keep a project from moving forward.

“It may be more costly than the entire development to (extend those lines),” Wallace said.

The council decided to table the matter to get more information.

Interim City Manager Jim Luke submitted his letter of leave of absence without pay as the city’s Police Chief while he serves in his new capacity. Farmer said that move will ensure that Luke is not paid as the Police Chief while serving in his interim position as City Manager. The council acknowledged the letter.

As one of his first moves as Interim City Manager Luke presented a matter before the council concerning surplusing two 2007 Ford Expeditions so the city can put them up for auction. Luke said his reasoning behind the move is to put more fuel economic vehicles under the city’s umbrella, especially since gas prices have increased 25 percent since July of last year and he expects the trend to continue based on current events in Egypt. The council approved the matter.

Luke’s plan is to replace the 8 cylinder vehicles with 6 cylinder vehicles, he said. Public Works Director Chad Frierson said the auction company enlisted to sell the vehicles, Turning Point in Hattiesburg, has been provided with a reserve by the city to ensure the city sells the vehicles for fair market value, which has been estimated to be between $15,000 to $18,000 per vehicle.

Luke presented the council with a organizational chart outlining city employee job descriptions, Harvey Miller is now listed as the Director of Operations.

In other business the council;

— Approved executing a letter of engagement with Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens and Cannada to act as governmental relations legal council for the city.

— Approved Butler and Snow to prepare and submit the city’s continuing disclosure agreement for the 2004 special obligation bonds.

The next regular meeting of the council will be 5 p.m. Feb. 15.