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County planning commission recommends lifting Punkin Water moratorium

A moratorium placed on Punkin Water Association more than 15 months ago could be lifted as soon as November.

The Lafayette County Planning Commission voted to recommend lifting the moratorium to the Board of Supervisors. The Board placed the development moratorium on PWA in July of 2018.

During their September meeting, the Planning Commission denied PWA’s request to lift the moratorium, citing a lack of an agreement between the association and the City of Oxford to connect to Oxford’s water supply. The commission also noted PWA had yet to fulfill conditions placed on them by the Public Service Commission.

In Oxford’s Board of Aldermen meeting on Oct. 15, the City approved their contract with PWA. The initial agreement is for five years.

“We’ve been through a grueling process over the last year-and-a-half to two years in doing those things and satisfying all that is asked of us by the PSC,” Mark Woods said. “I think if we were to call the PSC and ask them, I think they would say we’ve done a pretty good job of doing the things that they’ve asked us to do to try improve the service that we provide.”

Woods is an attorney who is representing PWA. He spoke on behalf of PWA president Jason Butts, who was not able to attend Monday’s Planning Commission meeting.

The PSC wanted the water association to come up with, and implement, a flushing plan for all its pipes before signing off on PWA moving forward with development projects. Woods informed the commissioners that the water association began the flushing plan last Wednesday and that it was nearly complete, aside from one last road having its pipes flushed.

When asked when that final road might get flushed, Woods did not have a definite answer, but said he felt that would begin sometime this week.

Woods also informed the Board that PWA is “searching for and securing financing” for the project currently, in hopes the moratorium is lifted soon. The Board asked Woods when there might be a shovel in the ground to begin the project, and Woods said it could be longer than 90 days.

Before approving to recommend lifting the moratorium to the Board, commissioner TJ Ray wanted PWA to satisfy all the conditions placed on them by the PSC. That included full completion of their flushing plan.

“I wouldn’t begin to discuss or debate how PSC got into this whole thing,” Ray said. “As they are in and as they have delivered a list of desirables, and as I see it one of those desirables is left unfinished. Then it would seem to me that we are where we were a month ago.”

The water association currently has 1,190 taps they can provide to customers. The Mississippi Department of Health will place a moratorium on PWA once that number is reached, unless they have more taps due built.

Lafayette County building inspector Joel Hollowell said developers are developing projects “at their own risk,” as it is a first come, first serve situation currently with PWA.

Commissioner Johnny Sowell motioned to approve the recommendation to the Board, under the contingent that PWA completes the flush tests required by the PSC. Commissioner Ray Garrett seconded the motion.

The Board will discuss lifting the moratorium at a future meeting.