UA board questions decision

Published 2:17 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Pearl River County Utility Authority at its latest meeting discussed the Picayune City Council’s decision to decline to enter into an agreement with the Utility Authority to purchase community water.

The proposed agreement would have had the city paying the Utility Authority .50 per 1,000 gallons for water, which would come from the new well and tower on Miss. 43 N. City Public Works Director Eric Morris presented the council with a estimate last week on the city’s cost to produce and treat water, citing that cost to be .30 per 1,000 gallons. Based on that assessment Morris suggested the city decline to enter into the agreement with the Utility Authority, which the council did.

On Thursday the Utility Authority discussed the city’s decision to not enter into the agreement during their regular meeting. Board President Steve Lawler said he wishes the city would have made a different decision, but he will have to respect that decision. Morris, who attended Thursday’s meeting, was asked by the board how he established his estimate and if that estimate included the cost of a new city well and tower. Morris said his estimate was based mostly on a cost survey, and benefit was not included. Morris did say that city is only considering a new well and tower, but those expenses were factored in to the city’s decision.

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“They made a business decision guys, and we got to respect that,” Lawler said.

Later in the meeting Lawler asked one of the board’s engineers, Vernon Moore, if he thought the city took the indirect costs of the agreement into consideration. While Moore said he did not have all the information he did say, “I don’t see how they could have.”

In the future Lawler would like any future discussions with the city to take place in open meetings, he said. Board director Ike Lewis feels the city will be back to discuss the agreement further.

“They will come back on our terms, we will not go back on their terms,” Lawler said. Lawler also wanted to move towards lowering the rate they charge Poplarville, which is currently $1.35 per 1,000 gallons and lower it to .65 per 1,000 gallons. Lawler said the rate is higher in Poplarville due to the cost involved on the Utility Authority’s end.

The board also received an update on the progress with the Poplarville waste water treatment plant, which is now months behind schedule. John Hanley with RaCon said the plant is almost ready to start processing waste water, and expects that process to start by the end of this month. Then it will take about three days to get the plant up to full capacity. After that the discharge line will be moved from the old plant to the new plant.

“At that point the plant will be circulating and cycling on it’s own,” Hanley said. After some discussion about the need to keep communications with RaCon and the board open, the board approved a final extension on the project until Dec. 1, to allow the contractor to fully test the new plant, and dismantle the old plant. That extension will put the project almost a year behind.

An extra $1 million in CDBG funds were awarded to the board, which will be used to replace aging water lines in the old Dixie Utility area, including Westchester, Eagle Heights and homes on Otis Stewart. Executive Director Cliff Diamond said the lines in those areas are substandard and create major headaches for repair crews.

“I think if we had not been a good steward of what we were (initially) given we wouldn’t have got this extra money,” Diamond said.

Hide-A-Way Lake resident Ed Goede came to the board meeting to commend the board for their excellent job in installing the sewage system in the subdivision. Diamond said Goede’s statement is a testament to the work done out there, especially considering every house added to the system involved digging a trench in their yard during the work.

In other business the board;

— Approved starting a 401k program for Utility Authority employees with a five percent match, health insurance plan, an employee handbook and approved job descriptions for employees in anticipation for Southwest Water moving out the district and the Utility Authority adding them to their employment. Board members are not employees and will not receive benefits.

The next meeting will be Sept. 15, at 2 p.m. at the Poplarville City Hall.