Utility Authority receives award

Published 10:50 am Monday, December 23, 2013

By Will Sullivan

Picayune Item

Thursday’s Pearl River County Utility Authority meeting opened with the announcement of an award received by the authority.

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Chairman Steve Lawler said the authority received an award for its fluoridation efforts, which were exemplary, according to the award. Pearl River County’s UA was one of 34 in the state to receive the award from the Mississippi Department of Health. Lance Stewart also was cited by the health department for his fluoridation testing.

Then Lawler announced that Picayune had a parade for the Maroon Tide state champion football team starting at 6 p.m. and he wanted the authority out of Picayune City Hall well before then. The meeting started at 2 p.m. The agenda was a long one.

Among the business at hand, though, was one that the board members appreciated. They signed the Closeout Agreement for Disaster Recovery Community Development Block Grant the agency received from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. The grant was for more than $55 million after Hurricane Katrina and the Pearl River County Utility Authority was the first county in the state to complete its work under its grant. The state received $680 million to parcel out to the five county utility authorities that were formed at that time. Harrison County received the largest allotment at more than $200 million, Lawler said.

The board discussed the rehabilitation of lift stations in Picayune and Poplarville. Authority employees and contractors are working on five of the stations at this time, but noted that four lift stations in Picayune and three in Poplarville were going to need extensive work costing about $700,000.

The authority is going to padlock fire hydrants in Lake Hillsdale to prevent water theft that is believed to be occurring there, but the community’s fire chief will have a key to the padlocks.

The board discussed at length contracts with the Picayune Housing Authority, which were originally signed by the city and the housing authority in about 1950. Also, the housing authority has three water meters handling multiple users but the housing authority is not billed that way.

Lawler said the housing authority’s water bill will go up “substantially” when the change is made to charging for multiple users.

“We won’t be able to oblige them as the city has in the past,” Lawler said.

He said the utility authority needs to go ahead and get the changes made and new contracts signed with the housing authority as soon as possible.

“What they have been used to in the past may not be what they get in the future,” Lawler said.

Board member Ernie Lovell said he thought the new contracts had been done two years ago. Lawler said the housing authority never signed the contracts.

Board member Dr. Sonny Sones returned to the question of the money the board had received. He wanted to know if any of the other counties had unexpended funds if Pearl River County could receive some of those funds for more work.

Lawler and Jason Hicks of Samples and Associates, the company that oversaw the expenditure of the funds in Pearl River County, both doubted that any of the money would come to the county.

The board approved several requests for contracts, contract payments and agreed to return a $500 tap fee to Run Investments since an authority employee knew of an existing tap, thus negating the need for any new work. The Run Investments facility is the stand-alone ice dispenser on U.S. Highway 11 North near Roseland Park Baptist Church.

The board approved an organizational chart and a job description for an asset manager. The board also approved sending an employee to a Waste Water III short course and another to a Water operator Level C short course. Lawler suggested the agency increase their salaries upon successful completion and said that discussion could come up after the short courses are completed.

The only other matter receiving lengthy discussion was the need for purchasing new software for its wastewater treatment plants and other facilities. The upgrades are expected to cost “only $24,417” if the agency moves ahead quickly. Otherwise, in a few months the cost may escalate as the demand for new computers with the new software increases substantially as other utilities seek to make the change, Lawler said.

The board adjourned until 2 p.m. Jan. 16, 2014, at Poplarville City Hall.