Water rates get attention in Wesson

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 5, 2002

WESSON — Last month’s water rate increase by the town garneredsome high bills and concerns from residents Tuesday at the monthlytown board meeting.

A 45-minute discussion followed Mayor Bill Tigner’s suggestionto allow people to put a second meter on their property for fillingup swimming pools, watering lawns and gardens, or any otheractivity that would not affect the town’s sewer system.

Some of the more than 20 people gathered at town hall pointedout that their sewage bills had jumped to figures such as $60 for afamily of two because they were being charged 80 percent of theirwater bill.

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“We don’t mind paying for the water to save our grass, but weshouldn’t have to pay 80 percent of that for sewage if it’s goingright back in the ground,” said Berenda Barry, who lives on WillBridges Lane with her husband, Ken.

Board members said they would look at the possibility ofallowing a second meter, but no motion was made.

Tigner explained to citizens that rates were raised on arecommendation from the Mississippi Rural Water Association afterthe town was notified of a shortfall in the water fund.

“What we’ve been doing is robbing from the general fund, whichis our tax base, and putting it in the water fund,” said Tigner.”It’s not bad accounting. The state looks at it as illegal.”

The explanation came as a surprise to many residents, and someexpressed feelings of disappointment that the town would actillegally in the first place.

Tigner said the increases were an effort to balance the waterfund so it would not be necessary to use general funds anymore.

“Even with the increase… last month we had to pull $1,800 fromthe general fund to balance the books,” said Tigner. “The water(fund) is going to be balanced from here on out.”

Ward Four Alderman Hollis Cowen Jr. addressed accusations thatthe board was using the extra money from the water rate increasesto fund raises for board members.

“No, we’re not planning on any… raises out of the waterdepartment (funds). There have been no raises at this table since1997,” he said. “We’re not here to go up on your water bills. Thiswas the very minimum that we could do to meet minimumstandards.”

Tigner and the board plans to meet with representatives from thewater association in order to come up with another solution.

“I think we need to get some facts together and do somefiguring,” said Ward One Alderman Robert Derrick.

In an effort to help bring some extra money to the fund, Cowenmade a motion to charge $250 rather than $200 for new taps into thewater lines. Ward Three Alderman Greer seconded and the other twoboard members present agreed. Alderman-at-large David Douglas wasabsent from the meeting.

In other discussion, board members once again addressed theissue of upkempt property in the town.

Tigner updated them on the latest talks with Bobby Lumley andJohn Hamilton, who own vacant storefronts on Main Street.

Lumley and his attorney disagreed with the town engineer’sassessment that the property posed as safety hazard and wanted athird party’s opinion.

“Do you know how long this has been dragged on? Ten years?Fifteen years?” said Derrick.

The board has sent numerous letters to Lumley, and he assuredthem he would have a plan for the property by the June meeting.Board members and town residents called the request an “unethicaldelaying tactic.”

Another engineer will be hired to give a professional opinion onthe condition of the building, where weeds form the floor and onlya few boards remain on the roof.

Tigner said he had not talked with Hamilton but had seen workgoing on in one of the buildings, which was also recently sold toanother party. The second building also lacked a full roof, so theboard opted to have the engineer also look at its stability.

Will Turnbough assured the board that his property was cleanedup, just as he had promised them.

An empty lot across from town hall on Spring Street is alsogetting attention. The property has weeds reaching about seven feethigh. A letter was sent to the owner last month requesting theweeds be cut.

Since no action was taken during the previous 30 days, the boardvoted to give the property owner one week before they hire someoneto cut it and charge it to the property owner’s taxes.

“Every time it gets out of condition, we’ll do it again,” saidTigner.

The next board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., July 2, in townhall.