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Aldermen looking at city services in annexed area

THE DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Ward Three Alderman Mary Wilson (from left) and Alderman at Large Karen Sullivan listen to discussion at Tuesday’s board meeting.

On hold for years, the second phase of an annexation agreement has been put on the front burner due to an advantageous economic climate.

The first phase of the annexation process began in 2007, just before the great recession. Since then, city officials decided it would be detrimental in the long run to pursue the matter due to financial concerns.

“We suffered through the great recession just like any other city in the country. At that time, it would not have been prudent to move to the second phase of the project,” said City Attorney Joe Fernald at Tuesday night’s board of aldermen meeting.

“Recently, we have seen some positive signs economically and have come to the conclusion that now is the right time to move forward,” Fernald said.

In the near future, the city seeks to potentially provide water and sewer services to homes in the area, located near the southwest quarter of Brookhaven near Natchez Avenue.

In a united front, the aldermen divided up motions pertaining to the matter.

To begin, Ward Six Alderman David Phillips requested the board approve the hire of WGK Engineering to officially begin the planning process and prioritize the needs of the city on water and sewer improvements and expansion.

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates made a motion to the board to do a financial analysis and determine the city’s ability to fund, and at what rate, water and sewer improvements and expansion.

Ward One Alderman Randy Belcher requested funding the appraisal of the Brignal Area Water System for possible purchase from Lincoln Rural Water.

Belcher then requested the mayor begin negotiations on the possible purchase of Brignal Sewer System.

“This will be the largest financial undertaking of the Mayor Cox administration,” said Ward Six Alderman David Phillips after the meeting.

As part of the annexation agreement, the city of Brookhaven has already committed $1.7 million and has approved related projects that will cost $1.7 million more, totaling $3.4 million. Most of this money will be utilized for construction in the area, while close to $500,000 will be used for sewage improvement near Highway 51.

Both of these projects will begin sometime in the next three months according to the alderman.

“At this time, we are mainly in the planning stages. Construction has been approved, but we are primarily evaluating the best way to move forward,” Phillips said.

In a separate document, the city released a list of key points. Among these include a comprehensive comparison of city water and sewage service rates as opposed to rural water and sewage services. Among the items noted in the document include:

• The minimum city water bill is $11.45 while the minimum rural water bill is $20.

• A five-gallon container of bottled water cost over $6. Five gallons of city water, on the other hand, costs two cents.

• Over 60 percent of city residents pay the minimum bill that equates to the use of 3,000 gallons or less per month.

“What’s the obligation of the city and the requirement of the land owner? This is just one of the questions that needs to be pursued in determining our course of action,” Fernald said. “But now is the right time to move forward.”