• 86°

Lafayette County Planning Commission vote to not remove Punkin Water Association moratorium

A moratorium that was placed on the Punkin Water Association by the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors last summer will remain in place.

The Lafayette County Planning Commission voted to not remove the moratorium during their September meeting on Monday.

The Board of Supervisors placed the moratorium on July 16, 2018 to halt any new developments from being built in the Punkin Water Association (PWA) franchise area. The moratorium came after complaints from PWA customers regarding the quality of their water. Any developments that were approved prior to the moratorium being put into place are not affected. However, it does affect any developers who were hoping to build in the PWA area of service.

Jason Butts, president of the PWA Board of Directors, was in attendance and spoke to the Planning Commission. He stated there are currently 150 will-serve letters in place with developers who are unable to proceed due to the moratorium.

“We have gone through leaps and bounds to get things done,” Butts said. “With the moratorium on, it is holding back the developers, who currently hold those will-serve letters, to even be able to start their process… as Punkin Water, we feel we’ve made those strides and gotten everything in motion and in place so far to making the association a better association. We feel like we are in a good place to say, ‘hey, we’re okay to lift (the moratorium).'”

Some of the concerns the Planning Commission had with lifting the moratorium now is due to the fact PWA does not have a signed agreement with the City of Oxford in hand. The City and PWA have been working for over a year on an agreement to connect their water supply to Punkin Water’s.

Currently, PWA has 1,190 liters at their disposal, but are looking to connect to the City’s supply as a secondary source or eventually having to build another well of their own. Butts told the Commission that is a “costly” option. One of those options must be in place by Dec. 31, per the Mississippi Public Service Commission’s request.

The PWA has tried to arrange an agreement before with the City but pulled out of those talks in the past. That was one concern planning commissioner T.J. Ray had with lifting the moratorium. Ray also said they have continued to receive emails from members of the PWA service area, claiming to have dirty water.

“There are some low-lying areas with some sediment that have to be flushed more than others,” Butts said. “From an engineering standpoint, it’s a distribution thing. From our well, it’s crystal clear. Probably some of the best drinking water in the state.”

One PWA member, Max Hill, spoke to the Commission and presented them with photos showing dirty water in their sinks and bathtubs. One photo was taken on Sunday, according to Hill. Butts stated that he has received calls from some of those concerned members and asked them to drain the tub then run the water a second time. Butt said they have told him the water comes out clear the second time after sediment or dirt has been washed out.

The Commission voted to keep the moratorium in place until PWA has a signed agreement with the City of Oxford in hand and after they have fulfilled conditions placed by the Public Service Commission, including conducting a flush test through their pipes.

An appeal on the Commission’s decision can be made, moving the issue to a future Board of Supervisor’s meeting.