By ADAM ARMOUR
Itawamba County Times
MANTACHIE – Rod McFerrin thinks of himself as being in the business of resolving emergencies.
When something goes wrong … a water leak, a stopped sewer line, a busted pump … it’s the Mantachie Public Works superintendent’s job to make it right again.
“Treatment is actually the easiest part of my job,” said McFerrin, looking out over the 13-acre lagoon that provides the town of Mantachie with its sewer service. “It takes care of itself; all I have to do is sample.”
Both small and large disasters “come in spells,” he said. “It seems you’ll go a week or so with nothing, then all of a sudden …”
He slapped his leg with the palm of his hand.
“You’ll think you’re caught up on everything and then a sewer line will stop up or something,” he said.
McFerrin, a 15-year town employee, was recently honored by the Mississippi Water and Pollution Control Operator’s Association – a statewide group with more than 1,750 water and pollution control operators among its membership – as the recipient of the 2012 Don Scott Award for Outstanding Wastewater Operator of the Year. He was selected from among more than 800 Class I and Class II wastewater operators in the state.
Although the award is given annually, its presentation is staggered so that operators of smaller, less complex systems – Class I and II – receive it one year, and operators of larger systems – Class III and IV – are selected the next.
Recipients are typically nominated by city officials. In this case, McFerrin was nominated by Mantachie Mayor Jeff Butler.
“He didn’t tell me he was doing it,” McFerrin said of his nomination. “I really appreciate that. It is a big honor.”
McFerrin is a Class I operator and a certified Class D water operator, overseeing both the town’s water and sewer services. Mantachie customers receive their sewer service through 20 miles or so of 8-inch sewer line. Six pumping stations are used to provide service. McFerrin said the system has approximately 450 customers on it, among them 35 commercial customers, including the Toyota Boshoku plant in Dorsey.
Along with one other employee, Jeff Miller, McFerrin makes up the entirety of the Mantachie Public Works Department.
Most days, McFerrin’s job involves maintenance of some sort. There’s a lot of upkeep, he said, not just of the lines, but also of the six pumping stations, half of which are submerged. Some days, it seems as if there’s a constant string of little emergencies.
For instance, McFerrin risked a vacation for the Fourth of July. On the second day he was off work, the power company drilled into the main water line. On the third day, there was a major leak.
“It seems like every time I leave, Jeff gets a few good experiences,” he said. “It’s never-ending. When you think you’ve seen it all, you haven’t. There’s always something new.”
With the exception of paperwork, McFerrin doesn’t mind the workload so much. Most of the time he’s outside, which is where the old farm boy prefers to be. He said he’s never had a job indoors, never worked inside a factory or plant. Wouldn’t care to, either.
“Being outdoors and around our customers, that’s what I enjoy,” he said.