By Jack Gurner
Customers on the Billy’s Creek Water Association will see their water pressure back to normal after county officials approved a plan last week to temporarily supply water to the system.
Representatives of the Billy’s Creek system met with the Board of Supervisors first during their recessed meeting, Monday, June 23, and again on Wednesday, June 25, at the courthouse in Water Valley.
Larry Sprouse, Billy’s Creek board president, explained to supervisors on Monday that their system was running at capacity and customers in some areas had little or no water at times. “Saturday morning folks down there on County Road 232 were calling me. They just had no water…just a trickle. The demand down there has gotten so great that in peak times our well just cannot keep up.”
John Lewis of Hill Lewis Wrenn, LLC, the engineering firm for Billy’s Creek, said that the association had applied to the state of Mississippi for money for a 200 gallon-per-minute well on the site of the booster station on County Road 211.
“It’ll take about 180 days to drill that well which means there is no way we can get that well in service during this peak season” he said. “What we’d like to do at that intersection of Hwy. 51 and CR 211 is tap onto your line with a ten by four tapping saddle.”
Lewis added that by using a tapping saddle, the installation would not interrupt service to Windsor Foods. The water will then go through a six-inch water line owned by the city of Oakland for approximately three-quarters of a mile and connect to the Billy’s Creek system on the east side of the Interstate.
“That connection is already in. It’s just a matter of opening a valve and the water will go into the Billy’s Creek system,” Lewis said.
Supervisor Tommy Vaughn, who was the first to speak for the board, emphasized how essential the water system near the Windsor plant is for the future growth of that part of the county. “We’re sitting there right now not using it,” he said. “We’re going to use probably around a hundred thousand gallons a day once Windsor gets kicked off.”
Vaughn added that he couldn’t see allowing the 138 Billy’s Creek customers run out of water “when we’re sitting there with a tank full.”
Sprouse again emphasized the temporary nature of the arrangement “In fact, we hope to have our third well up and going before Windsor Foods kicks off. If we can get through August and September.”
“Then we’ll shut the valve off and go back on Billy’s Creek,” Lewis added.
Vaughn said that he believed the arrangement could possibly be beneficial in the future for everyone involved. “There’s nothing to say we might not lose a well over there sometime to that plant and we need help or Oakland might need some help down the line.”
Lewis replied that the valve on the county water line could be opened and could feed the city of Oakland if needed. He also went into detail about the natural gas generator that will be part of the new well system. “So when the power goes out we’ve got basically a permanent water supply.”
The Billy’s Creek Water Association and the water system in Oakland have been tied together since the beginning and they have supplied each other water at times, according to Sprouse. “We’d like to keep that good working relationship there between Billy’s Creek and the town of Oakland. Who knows…someday we may need help again or they may need help again.”
Supervisor Bubba Tillman expressed concern over the compatibility of the chemicals that are put into the water by the two systems. “We wouldn’t want to get anybody messed up on the quality of water they are gonna’ be getting now.”
Sprouse responded to the question and explained that both water systems were using the same chemical treatment. “Y’all are chlorinating; we are chlorinating.”
Lewis said, “All three entities are governed and controlled by the Mississippi Department of Health. We’ve all got to live under those rules and regulations.”
“We want something in contract form that this is going to be temporary,” Vaughn said and then asked board attorney John Crow if he saw any problems with the arrangement.
Crow said, “I’m going to have to look at our service agreement with Windsor and then I’m going to have to go back to the grant agreements to see if there is any conflict there.”
Vaughn then said to the Billy’s Creek representatives, “I know you’re wanting an answer as soon as you can get it, so if y’all will bear with us a little while.”
Sprouse responded, “If we got an answer today, we were going to start tomorrow. That’s how critical this thing has gotten, fellows.”
Lewis said, “We’ve got a meeting with the City of Oakland the first to get their final approval. Once that’s done, we’d like to proceed with the next step.”
“The other time we met we proposed the rate,” Lewis continued. “The rate will be basically the same water rate the city of Water Valley charges Jeff Davis and O’toucalofa.”
Getting back into the conversation, Tillman said, “We’re going to have to look into our utility bill and our chlorine bill and then set the rates. We’ll know something by the first of the month, surely.”
Chancery Clerk Amy McMinn said, “I can go get the documents for John to look over them. I don’t know what emergency this is but we can recess…”
Vaughan quickly added, “I know one thing. When I’m out of water it’s an emergency.”
“To be honest at this particular time it would do us good,” Vaughan continued. We’re not exercising those wells the way they should be exercised. If you’ve got a well sitting there that’s capable of pumping 740 gallons a minute…both of them together…and they’re not pumping, you’re liable to lose them.”
“We’ve also got a problem with chlorine on the tank,” Vaughan said. “If you pump that tank full the chlorine will dissipate before you use it. So, actually we need to be moving a little water.”
Crow asked how long Billy’s Creek needed to use the county’s water. Sprouse explained that after the peak period their two existing wells would take care of demand. Crow also asked how much water per day would the system anticipate using.
Lewis answered, “Probably 80,000 gallons a day. Here again we’re talking about demand. That’s a hard target to hit. It’s going through a meter so we’ll know exactly how much we use.”
Crow said that he needed to know how much was Billy’s Creek expected to pay for the water to which Lewis said that he would provide the rate structure from Water Valley.
Tillman asked, “What’s the Billy’s Creek flat rate on their water now?”
Sprouse answered, “Fifteen dollars a month for the first 2000 gallons and a dollar eighty a thousand (after that).”
Crow said, “Let me look at these issues and recess the meeting.”
The discussion of the Billy’s Creek situation began at Wednesday’s meeting with Supervisor Vaughn on the speakerphone with Bennett Hill of Hill Lewis Wrenn. Vaughn said that the board didn’t see any problem with what was being recommended. However, he said that one thing that the state requires is back-flow valves. Hill responded that Billy’s Creek wouldn’t have any problem with that.
Then Attorney Crow explained what he had learned from the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) regarding the Community Development Block Grant that funded the construction of the wells and distribution lines.
“I talked with MDA Monday and the books of this grant are closed,” He said. “They saw no reason that we would be in violation of any condition of the grant.”
He explained that the grant was for purposes on infrastructure and the purpose for the other funds was to provide jobs for low-income people. “Selling water to people is not exactly the furtherance of that purpose.”
But, he said that MDA had no problem with any of this and it would not be in violation of the grant or agreement.
Crow then read a response he had received from Steve Charles with Windsor Foods. Charles wrote: “Windsor Foods has no issues with the county’s request. In fact, we are happy to help. Our agreement on this is with the understanding that the water drawn be metered so that Windsor Foods would not be billed for this usage. In addition, back-flow prevention would need to be assured so not to contaminate the source of water coming to the plant.”
Crow added, “So, that’s their position on it. Now, how does Oakland work into this.”
Sprouse answered, “Billy’s Creek Water is using part of Oakland’s six-inch main that connects to our line. In other words, the water will be metered before it gets into their line coming to us.”
Crow then asked, “What happens if something happens to the line? Who works on it?”
Sprouse said, “I do. We’re going to maintain Oakland’s six-inch line as long as they are letting us use it.”
Tillman expressed concern over what would happen to the water in the tank in the event of a major leak on Oakland’s line.
Vaughn said, “It’s gonna’ drain. We’re going to leave the check value in and put a bypass around it. If we have a break somebody’s got to go shut that value off. Until somebody shuts it off, it’s going to be running out on the ground. But, it shouldn’t be a big problem because everybody knows where the check value is.”
Sprouse assured the board that he was going to stay on top of the situation. “Because once it comes through that meter that’s money out of our pocket. And, believe me, we don’t want a line to break on that side of the meter and stay broke for three or four days.”
Vaughn said, “We can’t afford for that tank to drain and cut the water off to Windsor Foods. That’s why we put that check value in there. We lost that tank while the beef plant was up and running.”
Speaking to Attorney Crow about the contract with Billy’s Creek, Vaughn questioned, “You’re going to have that active through October the 15th?”
Crow answered, “It’s what I am purposing to put in there. We’ll provide up to 80,000 gallons a day. That the agreement will terminate October 15 or at such time as Billy’s Creek’s new well is online and operable. Whichever occurs first.”
Crow then asked Sprouse, “If we get in trouble over this, will Billy’s Creek indemnify the county?”
Sprouse responded, “Your first agreement is with Windsor and we understand that. At such time that Windsor gets up and going, if you see where you are not providing them with the 200,000 daily, then you need to notify us and we need to cut Billy’s Creek Water off.”
Crow then suggested that the board discuss rates.
Vaughan said, “Well, you know the rates being offered from the city to the water associations are extremely low. But, by the same token, we don’t want these people out there to be hurt anymore than they are already hurting. We’re not in the business of making money off these people who are suffering for water right now. And, I think if we stay with the rates they are offering down there.”
Crow turned back to Sprouse and said, “Larry, when does your board meet again to approve this agreement.”
“Well, our regular meeting is the third Monday of each month,” Sprouse said. “But, as soon as I can get some information for them, we are going to meet immediately.”
Crow said, “So, I need to go ahead and draft the agreement.”
Sprouse responded, “If you get it drafted, the very next day or night we’ll call our board together.”
There was a brief discussion then about the rates that included comments about Water Valley’s water association rate of $9.90 per month for the first 2000 gallons and $1.40 for each additional 1000 gallons.
Sprouse asked if the county was going to waive the $9.90 and just charge $1.40 for each 1000 gallons.
Vaughan said, “Well, that’s not enough to pay for the electricity to run the pumps. If you are using 80,000 a day, that’s not but a little over $100 a day. As I said, we’re not trying to make any money, but we want to make sure we’ve got enough to pay for the chlorine, pay for the pumps, and we’ve got to have a little to pay for wear and tear on the equipment.”
Tillman once again expressed concern. This time he asked about the utility bill. McMinn said that it was around $1600 for the last month.
Crow then spoke to Sprouse, “If you’re charging $9.90 – let’s just round it off to ten – for 138 customers. That’s only $1400.”
Sprouse said, “What you are saying then is we are going to be paying more than we are charging. We realize that…for the 2000 gallons. But, that’s where our difference comes in is when we get above that 2000 gallons.”
Vaughan asked, “That’s where you make your money?”
Sprouse described many of their customers as being retired or semi-retired. He said that they would seldom use over 2000 gallons a month. On the other hand, he said that they have other customers who use a good bit of water. “That’s where we see we’ll make our money back.”
“I think we’ll be alright,” Vaughn said of the deal. “It’ll give us a chance to keep those pumps exercised for three of four months, keep that tank circulating, and help folks out. We’re going to make it with Windsor with $2000 so this is icing on the cake right here for us.”
Vaughan added, “You know, you can go without electricity a day or two. You get up without water, you’re gonna move.”
Tillman said, “So, all we need now is to go ahead with this rate we are talking about. After October the 15th we can extend it if they need it.”
Crow asked the board if they wanted to act. Vaughn said they could get it in the minutes that the board agreed. Crow added the agreement would have everything they discussed.
Vaughan turned to Sprouse and said, “At least that’ll give y’all an opportunity to get rolling. I make a motion that we go on and do it at the rates we discussed.”
Board President Amos Sims said, “I’ll second.”
After the unanimous vote of the three supervisors present, Sims said to Sprouse who was getting up to leave, “I know you’ve got some pipes to sell.”
Sprouse smiled and said, “Thank y’all.”