Supervisors approve city’s acquisition of Punkin, express concerns over building regulations

Published 1:10 pm Tuesday, February 8, 2022

The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution allowing the city of Oxford to purchase the Punkin Water Association’s water system and provide water utility services to PWA customers, however the board voiced issues on what this could implicate for the future.

President Mike Roberts said Oxford’s acquisition of PWA is a good development for the association and for its customers.

“We think it’s a great idea and we’re proud for the people of Punkin Water Association to have the availability of more quantities of water and we intend on supporting that in the form of a resolution,” said Roberts.

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Although the board extends its full support, members said they have concerns about the lack of private legislation, local or private, and regulations that have to be implemented in order for PWA customers to receive city water. The city of Oxford would have to extend their services eight miles outside the city limits to service PWA customers and it may conflict with county property.

“It is their system,” said Roberts. “They will be servicing it and collecting bills on it. It all makes sense. Where we’re having issues is the implementation of all building codes in order to receive city water. On the surface that sounds good but when you look at the map and draw an eight mile radius from the city limits of Oxford, it goes a long way.”

According to District 3 Supervisor David Rikard, there is a big difference between what the city enforces and what the county enforces. Some rules in the city would not make sense outside in the county.

“If they impose their Tree Ordinance which means every time a tree is cut, which means you either have to replace it or pay a fine, and somebody wants to remove 50 acres of trees on a 100 acre development, that’s going to make it impossible for development,” said Rikard.

District 2 Supervisor Larry Gillespie voiced his agreement with Roberts and Rikard. 

“Developments regulations and definitely individual homeowner regulations will need to be looked at,” said Gillespie. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to have city development codes out that far into the county.”

In the past, a resident within a mile of the city could use the water system but the county did not have comprehensive planning, zoning, building codes and enforcement when that was in place, according to Roberts. 

Now that the county has rules and regulations, the county wants to maintain integrity and availability of affordable housing. Implementing city regulation codes would not be right for the county.

“Some of the difference in our building requirements versus the city may make that hard,” he said. “City of Oxford real estate is high, and Lafayette County is as well, but the majority of our workforce lives outside the city limits and they go there for a reason.” 

Despite their concerns, the board recognizes acquiring Punkin and preventing city regulation codes in the county are two separate issues and they look forward to legislation that will address their concerns and the future of PWA.

“This entire board is in favor of the city purchasing Punkin Water and I’m optimistic that can happen and we can work together, but we just need to know what that looks like before we impose city regulations eight miles out inside the county,” said Rikard.