Work on schedule: PRCUA gets update on work, approves fiscal year budget

Published 7:00 am Friday, September 18, 2015

The Pearl River County Utility Authority board met Thursday for their monthly meeting.

Most of the meeting was given to updates on the ongoing sewer work going on in Picayune, though at the top of the meeting there was some discussion on Mississippi Power’s rebates. The company recently announced that some of its ratepayers could get money back in October, either via a check or through credits on future electricity usage.

James Sones, the president of the board, suggested taking the check and Mike Pind, a member on the PRCUA board agreed. The board voted to accept their rebate in the form of a check.

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Mississippi Power is paying back some of its ratepayers because a state court’s decision that an 18-percent rate hike was illegal. However, since that decision, the power company has had another 18-percent hike approved by the Public Service Commission, but Sones indicated that hike might not have a long life.

As he was talking about the rebates, he said, “You know what the Public Service Commission has done about the 18 percent increase, that that will possibly be overturned as well, although we haven’t seen anything official on that.”

The board also approved its new budget for the fiscal year, which included an increase of $719,000 for a total of $4,772,000. In part, the rising budget is due to upgrades of equipment and infrastructure, a cost-of-living raise for all employees but also due to the expected 18 percent rate hike on electricity.

Ray Scott, the executive director of the utility authority, said the utility authority is not going to buy four new vehicles,

as it had initially planned.

Pind asked Scott if he thought the utility would have enough cash on hand to handle the increased budget, and Scott said he thought they would.

“If we spend everything that we think we’ll have to, it’s going to drop our cash down to what we consider … to be a minimal reserve,” he said.

He said the utility board tries to keep enough cash in the bank to operate for two months without any income if it has to and he doubted they would have to tap into those funds. But, he said, the money would have to be watched.

“It will require us to manage our funds very closely over the next few years,” he said.

The board then got an update on ongoing sewer line work by Vernon Moore, an engineer with Dungen Engineering. The project includes videoing the sewers, cleaning them and repairing or replacing them. Work is set to end in December of 2016, and Moore said he is confident that timetable will hold.

“I don’t think we’re at any point now concerned about not being able to finish the project on time.

So far, the project has cost $1.5 million and by the time it wraps up, it’s projected to cost another $5.2 million. All of the sewer lines in Picayune won’t be cleaned and repaired, but most will, and Moore and Scott pointed out that the oldest pipes will be fixed.

“The areas we’re working at now are bad. We’re looking at 90 percent rehab on those,” Moore said.

“The areas we’re doing this project in, are the oldest in the city the most inhabited and have the most business,” Scott said. “Based just on those criteria I think you’ve picked the right spot.”

The board also chose its leadership for the next year, although the board voted to keep the same people in the same positions.

They also approved a water adjustment and some sewer adjustments and some change orders on ongoing projects. The board also got an update on the Highway 11 expansion, the Wildwood drip field, the mini storage easement purchase and some storm damage incidents.

There was an executive session for personnel after the public meeting.

The next meeting will be held Oct. 15 at 2 p.m.