A public hearing set for January 6 has been postponed for at least 180 days in the wake of a special session called by Mayor Chuck Cariker.
On Thursday, December 16, Cariker told aldermen Eloise Carson Jack Graves, Charley Knabb and Edward Hunsucker that he felt there were issues that needed to be cleared up before going forward with the town’s water facilities plan.
“I just want to say this is not my plan,” Cariker said, explaining that his role as mayor is to carry on the day to day operations and advise the board. “I’m not trying to force anything on anybody.”
Cariker said that the water facilities plan process requires a proposal, a public hearing, changes based on the public hearing and a final document being submitted to the state. To date, engineer Ed Davis has billed the town for his work in creating a first draft of the document.
“Is it high?” Cariker asked of Davis’ professional services fee. “Maybe, but he’s done all the work on our water system that I know of.”
Davis’ latest work includes six projects recommended over the next 20 to 25 years. Cariker said the document does contain a different rate structure than what the town is using. It does not include an idea to place a master meter on the area outside of the town’s corporate limits. Operations Manager Ellis Koonce III estimated costs for a master meter at $17,000.
Carson said that the master meter would be helpful if the town opted to buy water from the Tunica County Utility District.
Cariker said he would like to approach TCUD officials about the tie-in again. Originally, TCUD officials had indicated that the tie-in would have to be located at Prichard Road. That would increase costs and the idea was tabled by the board.
Cariker said the tie-in would likely include impact fees imposed by TCUD. That could add up to $500,000, which would be half the cost of putting in a new well. Cariker said the town would also have to purchase water on top of the impact fees.
Knabb said the problem he had with the water facilities plan as a whole was the lack of alternatives.
“It’s either you do this or do nothing,” Knabb said.
Carson and Hunsucker agreed.
Cariker said the perks of submitting the plan to the state was that it got the the town’s “name in the hat” for financing.
Carson said she never felt that this plan was Cariker’s plan. Hunsucker said he thought the plan was a giant “sales pitch.”
Carson agreed, saying she felt the rates included in the document were “fradulent.” Cariker and Knabb went through the math used in the document, agreeing that the figures were off.
Cariker said that Davis’ figures do not incorporate any water loss. Koonce said normal systems experience 30 to 35 percent water loss.
Knabb said the town’s loss is between 50 and 55 percent.
“Before we commit to this plan, we should do everything we can to determine where we can save on this loss,” Knabb said.
Cariker said he understood everyone’s concerns, but the bottom line was that the town wouldn’t be eligible for funding until a water facilities plan was in place.
Hunsucker said he was not in favor of voting for the current plan until the problems were fixed.
“We’ve got to open our minds and analyze the whole picture,” Hunsucker said.
The board also discussed different ideas for the industrial park well. Right now, it is running four to six hours while the two wells in town are running 22-24 hours a day. Suggestions included a booster pump, running a 12 inch line or running an additional eight inch line.
Koonce said a booster pump is frowned on by the Health Department and he was uncertain how much impact the additional lines would make.
Ultimately, the board opted to make changes to the plan over the next six months. According to the state, the plan can include all water related projects that the town may take on. Once it is approved by the state, it can not be amended.