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Poplarville aldermen wrestle with water bill

Hank Reid, who lives on Hank Reid Road, owes the City of Poplarville $625 on a water bill and he can’t pay it, and a benefactor, Junior Howard, asked the board of aldermen to waive the late fees on the bill, which amount to $40.

Howard, and other benefactors, are considering paying the bill so Reid can get his water turned back on.

However, the board on Tuesday night, at its first board meeting of the new year, said there was nothing they can do about it, that legally, they can’t forgive the bill or the late fees.

Discussion brought out that a portion of the bill could be forgiven if there were a malfunction in the water system, but in this matter, the board indicated, that was not the case.

“We would like to help,” said Alderman Dr. John A. Grant, Jr., “but if we do it for one, we would have to do it for all.” He said Howard asked, at first, if the whole bill could be forgiven, and “I told him we couldn’t legally do that. . .Then he asked if the late fees could be forgiven, or waived.”

Board attorney Martin T. Smith told the board that they could waive portions of the bill caused by an error, but if the bill was in proper legal order and accurate, fees could not be waived, according to recent court cases. “I don’t know of any legal way you could forgive the bill,” said Smith.

Said Alderman Shirley Wiltshire, “Once he gets turned back on, who is going to continue to pay his bill. We all have to pay our bills, and who is going to pay it for him next time.”

Mayor Billy Spiers brought up the topic, which was No. 10 on the agenda — “Hank Reid: Water bill” — and told the board that there was “talk” that Reid was capturing rain water at his house with which to take a bath. He said Howard approached the city and said “they” were going to pay Reid’s water bill.

Spiers asked a city employee if the city “had ever put a water meter in down there.”

Replied the employee, “We pulled one because of not paying the water bill.”

Spiers said the tap was removed because the customer turned the  water back on after the city workers had cut it off for failure to pay the outstanding water bill.

The water has been turned off for months, the discussion by the board brought out.

The board took no action on Howard’s request. Howard was not present at the board meeting.

The Reid matter was one of 15 items on an agenda that the board handled in a 45-minute session at City Hall.

In another matter, the board voted to send a letter to Norfolk-Southern railway company, requesting that the company clean up a piece of property it owns, which borders the railroad along Doyle, Julia and Michigan streets. A portion of the property has been regularly mowed, but another part, which was formerly the site of two businesses, has grown up with brush and some trees.

Alderman Bill Winborn said that if and when the company clears the property and seeds it to grass, the city could possibly maintain and mow the property. A number of nearby residents have complained to city officials about that portion of the property.

In other matters, the board:

— Named Hancock Bank and Bank Plus depositories for city funds.

— Approved the board minutes for Dec. 20 and the Jan. 3 claims docket.

— Changed the lodging amount approved on Nov. 15, from $49.84 per night for three nights to $74.74 per night for two nights for two fire dept. personnel to attend a public information officer certification workshop.

— Approved a $335 course fee, which includes lodging, for one fire dept. employee to attend a “fire ground leadership” course in Jackson Jan. 30 to Feb. 2.

— Went into executive session to discuss personnel.

— Recessed to Jan. 17 at 5 p.m.