Feb. 22--The DeSoto Regional Utility Authority got a clean bill of fiscal health from auditors as the board approved applying for a $12.3 millionState Revolving Fund loan to help flex timely muscle to nab some big-ticket projects if federal funds arrive.
And mindful of public visibility, the panel OK'd looking into social media opportunities and public outreach with Earth Day and DeSoto Economic Development Council activities.
"They've got a clean audit opinion," said auditor Neil Jackson of the Williams, Pitts & Beard firm of Hernando. He said the utility authority report for the 2013 fiscal year ending Sept. 30 showed cash and cash equivalents at $3,619,586, an increase of some $987,000 over the year before, and ending net position -- formerly known as net assets -- at $65,361,780, an increase of $824,797.
"Those are two numbers you always want to see going in a positive direction," Jackson told the board this week.
At the recommendation of consulting engineer Tracy Huffman of the Hernando-based Waggoner firm, the panel approved seeking $12,351,543 in a State Revolving Fund loan to be tapped if the authority gets as much as $10 million in federal Omnibus Bill funds that may be available through the Corps of Engineers.
"We want to be prepared for any scenario," even if getting all $10 million is chancy, said Huffman. "If we get $10 million, we can obtain our match through SRF."
Among projects eyed is a $3 million outflow line to the Coldwater River to precede a previously planned, $18 million expansion at the Short Fork wastewater treatment plant in east DeSoto to double daily flow capacity to 8 million gallons.
Bringing a facilities operations report, Jason Moss of contractor Severn Trent said January was a frozen frenzy of equipment failures, pipes freezing and some equipment damage. But he was happy to list no service interruptions or overflows.
"We had one call with an open pipe in the Notting Hill subdivision in which we placed a 14-inch cap over the pipe, preventing any issues," the report said.
The board approved Moss' request for a new grit chamber volute -- estimated cost just under $5,000 from sole maker Smith & Loveless Inc. -- that froze during a single-digit day despite heat lamps and other measures at the Shirt Fork plant. Huffman described a volute "as equipment which concentrates flow into a pipe."
"I'm hoping we're past the freezing temperatures, at least all that drastic stuff," said Moss.
On outreach matters, the board on Donnie Chambliss' motion approved a $350 Leadership DeSoto luncheon sponsorship and a $500 sponsorship of a science-centered, teacher/classroom mini-grant in the Foundation for Excellence in Education program. Both are projects of the DeSoto Economic Development Council.
Also approved was participation in the county-sponsored Earth Day Celebration on April 26 on the courthouse grounds in Hernando. "The theme this year is clean air," said authority executive assistant Judy Marshall.
At her request, the board authorized pursuit of a proposal for social media options, including Facebook and Twitter, to boost community contact.
"We may be a little bit behind, but we'll catch up," said Marshall.
"We'll be twittering and tweeting," quipped board President B.J. Page.
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