Supes look at building utility district
Nov 26, 2012 | 1310 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Bolivar County Board of Supervisors voted earlier this week to move forward in creating a county utility district with hopes that it would allow them to continue to work on a project aimed at providing citizens with a basic necessity in life.

For years the residents of the Noblin and Stanton subdivisions near Cleveland and the Isaac Daniels subdivision near Mound Bayou have been pleading to the County for an adequate sewer system.

In July 2011, the county secured funds from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality to fund the installation of an adequate sewage system in each of the three neighborhoods.

However, just receiving the funding was only the first step in moving forward with the project.

"We still had to come to some sort of working agreement with two separate municipalities, Cleveland and Mound Bayou, along with multiple water providers, including Boyle-Skene Water," said County Administrator Will Hooker.

At that time, interlocal agreements were drawn up and presented to the county, municipalities and water providers.

Mound Bayou agreed to do whatever was necessary of them for the Isaac Daniels project to move forward and easement agreements began being collected from residents of that neighborhood.

However, as far as Cleveland was concerned, the interlocal agreements hit some snags.

Under terms of the agreement, customers would have had two separate bills. One would be issued for their water usage by Boyle-Skene Water Association and the other would be a sewage bill that would be paid to the city of Cleveland.

In September the agreement fell through due to a lack of interest from Cleveland to work with the Boyle-Skene Water Association due to previous legal conflicts.

It was determined at that time that in order for the county to move forward with the project and keep the funding source, they had to choose an alternative method of action.

One such alternative actions was for the county to establish a utility commission charged with being responsible for operating the new sewer systems in these neighborhoods.

"I have spoken with Supervisor Larry King, Supervisor Donny Whitten and County Engineer Bob Eley regarding the establishment of a county utility district specifically for the Stanton and Noblin projects," said Board Attorney Linda F. Coleman earlier this week.

Coleman added that under Mississippi statute it would take at least three months based on the notices needed to form a district.

"Of course it would likely take a little longer than that based on the fact that all the paperwork has to be in order," she added.

Coleman informed the board that if it were their decision to move forward with this, the first thing that would have to be done would be the determination of boundaries for each one of the districts.

Eley informed the board that that would be a simple process that could be finished in a matter of hours.

According to Coleman, the second step would a petition intiated by the board.

"You would have to obtain 25 percent of the land owners within the boundaries to sign the petition," explained Coleman. "Then we do a resolution of intent and the notice for a public hearing."

"This would solve the hangups," said Eley. "What it would evolve to is that we would have to hire, through the utility district once it is established, an operator."

Supervisor Andrew Williams chimed in that in his opinion he felt that the county should look into building a lagoon, or other sewer grey water system, so that it could become self-sufficient of the municipality.

"One reason is the city of Cleveland, for example," said Williams. "They charge people in the rural areas twice as much for their water usage/sewage as they do for those customers within the city limits. So, in my opinion, while we are in the process of establishing a utility district, we should be moving in that direction."

Eley said that he could put together a preliminary cost estimate to add that as a second phase to project.

"I think that Supervisor Whitten is interested in salvaging the funding source that we have already obtained," said Coleman. "

Coleman said that after the board chose the representatives to sit on the utility district that it would relinquish all responsibility to that district and ownership of the system would also be moved over to the district once the county has paid off the debt.

"I am under the opinion that whatever it takes for us to become self-sufficient, and not be independent on anyone is the direction that we should go," said Supervisor James McBride.

Further discussion ensued before Eley and Coleman were in agreement that the only likely thing that could trip up the process would be the landowners themselves.

"Now, I don't think that that is going to happen because the landowners want the service," concluded Coleman. "I have spoken with Commissioner Posey and with the public utilities staff and they are willing to work with us in terms of moving our certificate through their process."

Eley added that it would be ideal if the county could get the funding source on board with the idea of establishing a commission that would allow the county to bid out the building process.

"Technically the utility commission would not have to be up and running until the system is operational and that want be until at least October of 2013," he said.

With Supervisors Billings and Whitten absent from the meeting, the board made a motion to allow Eley to establish the boundaries and tabled the issue until the Dec. 3 meeting.