News Column

North Lee proceeds with $8.9 million loan

July 18, 2014

By Robbie Ward, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo

July 18--SALTILLO -- North Lee County Water Association's board of directors has officially entered the nonprofit cooperative into a low-interest, $8.9 million federal loan financed for a 40-year period.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan allows the water association to proceed with construction of six water tanks and six wells; however, the board has agreed to proceed without completing the entire water system upgrade, leaving $2.1 million still available.

Contractors for the project began work to start drilling wells more than a week ago, but the board agreed to halt the work until it resolved issues related to interim financing.

Brett Brooks, an engineer with Engineering Solutions Inc., the company contracted with North Lee related to the Rural Development loan, said work would resume today.

Interim loan financing specifics haven't been clear to most water association members other than directors since the group has kept meetings closed until Thursday. The board voted Thursday to open all meetings to the public, not just water association members.

Prior to this meeting, the board required members to request an appearance at least seven days in advance to have an opportunity to speak at the meeting prior to discussing business, when members not serving in elected positions left.

That action prevented Tupelo officials from negotiating with the association to bring city utility service to areas annexed into the city in 2012. Also, federal law prevents municipalities from acquiring territory served by a rural water association still repaying a Rural Development loan.

The city and North Lee will meet in Jackson next month at a Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Permit Board evidentiary hearing requested by Tupelo officials. The state agency provided conditional uses for North Lee's requested wells due to long-term concerns with the Eutaw McShan aquifer. The city has argued the project's impact could deplete the aquifer's water levels below an acceptable threshold, while North Lee has said the project's impact won't make a significant difference.


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Source: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo)

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