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Jeff Davis, County Negotiate Deal For Water At New Jail

Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (right) crunches numbers with Jeff Davis Water Association engineer Stanley Spradling to determine the amount of water needed for a new jail. – Photo by David Howell

By David Howell

WATER VALLEY – After months of negotiations, an agreement for Jeff Davis Water Association to provide water for a new county jail was hammered out last Friday with Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley on hand.
    Jeff Davis Water Association serves the Yalobusha County Complex south of Water Valley on County Road 436 where the new jail could be constructed.
    Infrastructure at the property, primarily water and sewage, has been identified by county officials as a major factor in determining whether jail construction is cost-effective at that site.
    The property was tagged as a potential jail site not long after Sean Carothers donated it to the county.
    “I think everybody knows why where we are here,” Board of Supervisor’s President Tommy Vaughn said as the meeting got underway.
    “The county is waiting on an answer on whether we can get water now. That’s been the question that’s been outstanding for quite a period of time – about whether it’s there and whether we can hook on. We are at a point right now we need to move forward on what we are doing with this jail,” Vaughn added.
    “The water is there, but how much,” Jeff Davis Water Association President Rayford Wilbourn asked. “We never have got an answer on how much water,” Wilbourn added, adding the water association has received three different amounts the jail would need.
    Both sides would spend much of the 45 minute-meeting tracking past estimates of water requirements for the jail and crunching numbers to determine that magic number.
    Both engineers,  Stanley Spradling representing the water association and county engineer Karl Grubb, traced the back-and-forth number chasing in the weeks and months leading up to the meeting, including different formulas for jail inmate consumption and even the actual number of inmates that will be housed at the facility.
    Also established in Friday’s discussion was that the water association could provide up to 30 gallons per minute without affecting water pressure for current customers, but future needs  also need to be considered.    
    “They need to be left with some capacity,” Spradling explained. “They need enough capacity in that line for future customers,” Spradling explained.
    “I know you are worried about future customers, but for some reason we are not considered as a customer,” Vaughn countered.
    “Y’all serve the people of that district,” Vaughn continued, referring to the role of the water association. “I serve the people, too. As a servant of theirs, they have a right to that water just as well as anybody that may come on the line later on. Why hold water for somebody who may come when you have customers who are ready to buy water from you,” Vaughn said.
    “Vaughn, you are looking at it in a different situation,” Wilbourn replied.
    “Well, explain it to me, because I don’t understand” Vaughn asked.
    “This is a rural association. Farmer’s Home administration set this up,” Wilbourn explained, referring to the water association. “I can consider this a commercial thing,” Wilbourn added, referring to the jail. “You are going to have more people than a household.”
    “Mr. Wilbourn, you cannot withhold water from a customer who wants to buy it,” Vaughn,” replied.
    Presley then intervened, explaining the law.
    “There is no doubt, clearly, clearly, clearly under the law this area has been certificated to Jeff Davis Water to serve. They have been given the exclusive right to be the only one to provide water service out there. Therefore the law says as long as a customer is making reasonable attempts to hook up, they have to give them water. There is no arguing that. They can require certain things, just like we are talking about,” Presley continued.
    “I think what has got everybody in a tizzy is, we are getting all these different numbers. Do we just know a number?” Presley asked. However it would be deeper in the minute before numbers would be discussed.
The Discussion
    “Tommy, we have never said we are not going to furnish you water. We want to furnish you water. We would be crazy to turn that revenue down. We would like to serve you if we can, but we don’t need to have to upgrade ourselves. How much are y’all willing to upgrade to help us?” Wilbourn said.
    “It doesn’t need upgrading. We just got through talking about it. It may in the future, but not now,” Vaughn explained.
    “What if you were sitting down there with some property right below it?” Wilbourn asked.
    “That’s a hypothetical situation,” Vaughn countered.
    “No it’s not either. That’s future use in our system,” Wilbourn replied.
    “This is helping people in our county. You have looked after that system for a long time. You got a lot of pride in what you do and I appreciate it. But we got people here that need it. It’s (water) there and y’all are saying you are not going to give it to us,” Vaughn said.
    “No we are not,” a number of water association representatives answered.
    “Well, put the meter in,” Vaughn responded.
    “We’ve got it under advisement as we speak,” Buster Jackson explained.
    “Well it’s been advised for about four years now,” Vaughn said.
    “No, this man right here,” Jackson said, pointing to Grubb, “was the first person to come before the board officially.”
    “I have been talking to Rayford for four years,” Vaughn countered.
    “I don’t care about that,” Jackson said.
    “Do you know how many thousands of dollars y’all have cost this county over four years on holding off of construction – the price of building these structures has gone up tremendously – if you had told me four years (water was available)  ago  when I said Rayford, I would like to get water and you said ‘I can’t do it.’”
    “I didn’t never say I couldn’t do it. What I said was, the board will have to do it,” Wilbourn replied. “What did the board say, Buster will tell you what the board said,” Wilbourn explained.
    (Buster) Jackson then repeated the board’s response, “We’ll take it under advisement,” he explained.
    ‘Well that was four years ago, how long do you have to advise on it?” Vaughn asked.
    “Did you ever come before the board?” Jackson asked.
    “Nope, I talked to Rayford Wilbourn. He’s been over that facility for years and years and years. I took it that he would take it to the board, like I would if somebody came to me,” Vaughn explained.
    “I believe four years ago he was not on the board, he was an advisor,” Jackson continued.
    “He may have been an advisor, but he has been running that place for 30 years,” Vaughn added.
    “Maybe so,” Jackson said. “Maybe so.”
The Magic Number
    “Maybe there is a happy medium that gets everything everybody wants,” Presley said, weighing back in to the discussion. “This goes back to, we got to get a number that not only takes care of the jail but also takes care of future growth?” Presley asked.
    His comments shifted the meeting back to the earlier number-crunching theme – the number of inmates, the number of employees and the gallon requirements.
    Vaughn then separated the employees already in the sheriff’s department, which are already served by the water association, and came up with three per shift at the jail. The inmate count was fine-tuned to 50 county inmates, plus the possibility of adding 15 state inmates.
    ““Do y’all see why you cannot come up with a number here and say we can do this with what we got here?” Jeff Davis water operator Bill Harris asked. “It’s been 12 different figures,” he added.
    “Apparently you are not listening, Bill. If you have trouble understanding that, you might need to talk to somebody else,” Vaughn countered.
    “I would like to leave here today with a number,” Presley again stressed, suggesting to use 65 inmates and six employees for a total of 71 people who would consume water on a daily basis.
    Pulling out his calculator, Presley then attempted to calculate the gallons based on figures provided from both the county and the water association.    
    “This is a free service provided by the State of Mississippi,” the Commis-sioner joked as the number crunching continued and the buttons were pushed.
    The magic number came to 23.15, which means the association can serve the county’s needs with a a one-inch meter, restricted to provide up to 30 gallons per minutes.
    “Based on what y’all are saying, that should work,” Spradling explained.
    “That will serve the jail with a bigger capacity than is even needed,” Presley said, referring to a maximum of 30 gallons per minute.
    To close the deal, Presley then requested the county submit the request in writing within the coming days.
    “I think the water association doesn’t have a problem. Our expectation, then will be to get the water turned on,” Presley said.
    “When can we be expected to have it turned on?” Vaughn asked.
    “When do you expect to have the jail built?” Wilbourn asked.
    “We are not going to build it until we get the water down there. We are not even going to hire an architect until we get the water down there. That’s what we have been waiting on for four years,” Vaughn explained.
    “You have got to have water before you build a jail. You know what you are going to get,” Wilbourn said.
    “I know what I am going to get now, because Mr. Presley was here. But I didn’t know before he was here,” Vaughn said.
    “We didn’t know either, Tommy, we didn’t know what you wanted. You wanted water, but how much. There is a lot of difference between 30 and 6 (gallons per minute.)” Wilbourn continued.
    “Let me say this, I know that y’all are as passionate about watching your system as I am about building this jail. Sometimes when you get people that are as passionate as we are. We don’t want to bend in any way – we don’t and y’all don’t. Having Mr. Presley here showing us both sides of this thing, I am proud we got it done,” Vaughn said.
    Presley said with the deal, the water association would be required to install the meter in a timely manner and the matter is settled.

Final Thoughts
    “Is that jail going to be built on that property, the Carother’s property? Is that a settled issue?” Jackson asked.
    “Absolutely, what do you think we are doing here,” Vaughn answered, adding that if he had known the water was there four years ago it would have saved hundreds of hours of work as other sites were examined in Water Valley and Coffeeville.
    Wilbourn added that the water would be billed the same as a residential customer.
    “No commercial rate is going to be involved,” he explained. “Do you understand what I am talking about, Tommy?” Wilbourn asked.
    “Yes sir, I would have hoped it would have been better,” Vaughn answered.


Supervisors Agree: Meeting Could Have Been Handled Better

By David Howell

WATER VALLEY – Meeting with the Herald after Friday’s meeting, Board President Tommy Vaughn stressed it was a fact-finding effort to try and resolve the issue and he did not anticipate many of the board members from Jeff Davis, accompanied by the press and attorneys from both sides.  
    “Our board president does have the role to check into matters and report back to the entire board,” District 5 Frank “Bubba” Tillman also told the Herald.
    But, Tillman, said, this meeting could have been handled in a different manner.
    “The issue probably should have been handled in a Board of Supervisors’ meeting,” Tillman continued.
    District Three Super-visor Lee McMinn shared Tillman’s sentiment.
    McMinn told the Herald he was aware that Vaughn was working with the association and Presley, but he was not aware of last Friday’s meeting until after the fact.
    “I don’t think Tommy was aware it was going to be a full-blown meeting with the Jeff Davis board, the press and counsel,” McMinn added. “Had he known it was going to escalate, I think he would have preferred to wait for a board meeting.”
    McMinn was referring to Board Attorney John Crow and Jeff Davis Water Association Attorney David Burns, along with a newspaper representative who had been invited by the water association.
    “Had I walked in to that meeting, I think it would have been necessary to wait until a supervisor’s meeting.
    “Any future dealing with the water association, I would prefer it be done that way,” McMinn also told the Herald.

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