High hazard dam cause for concern

Published 9:58 am Tuesday, September 27, 2016

County planning commission members want some answers before they approve a 150-home development that is facing three major hurdles.

Jeff Williams with Williams Engineering presented the Pebble Creek development, which would sit on 60 acres near Punkin Road. The first of the five-phase development would consist of 30 lots.

The commission praised Williams and the developer for the type of development, but questioned whether it was the best development for the area, which drew applause from a packed house of residents who are concerned the impact the subdivision will have on the Punkin Water system, a road that is in badly need of repair and would be near Spring Lake, which is expected to soon be designated as a high hazard due to levee issues.

Williams said the developer is “paying a substantial fee” to tap into the Punkin Water system, which is planning to make utility upgrades.

“Could we ask Punkin Water to come in and inform us what improvements they will make prior to approving this development,” asked commissioner Johnny Sowell, which also drew applause from many in attendance who claim the water system is currently suffering from a lack of water pressure and is also unhealthy looking.

Besides the lack of water pressure, residents also voiced concern about the condition of Punkin Road.

Supervisor Kevin Frye informed those in attendance there are plans to improve Punkin Road next year.

But perhaps the biggest issue facing the development and other homes in the area is the condition of Spring Lake.  Williams presented to the planning commission information indicating the lake will soon be designated high hazard by state officials. He said that is not because of the development he is proposing.

“That’s not because of what is coming,” Williams said. “There are currently houses in that high hazard area.”

Williams said the latest inspection of the levee indicated seepage, leaks, erosion and maintenance issues.

Carl Sealy who has lived in the area for 40 years, encouraged the commission not to approve the development until more information could be gathered.

“How can y’all neglect the public safety of anyone, even if it was in good condition, and put people right below a hazard dam,” asked Sealy. “Just because you meet a set back, a certain lot size, get the road all right, that does not mean it is in the welfare of the community. We could have the biggest catastrophe that’s ever happened in north Mississippi if this thing fails.”

The commission decided to table the development until Punkin Water system officials could provide specifics with their upgrade plans of the utility company to accommodate the development, as well as hear from Public Service Commission officials about the levee at Spring Lake.