By Emily Le Coz | NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Auburn water system, which serves more than 1,000 people, never would have gone to the North Lee County Water Association had its past owner known Tupelo wanted it.
Mooreville-Richmond Water Association Operator David Faust said he sold Auburn to North Lee in June believing it was the right thing to do. But he soon learned North Lee failed to file for legal ownership of the system and, shortly thereafter, its entire management resigned amid allegations of wrongdoing.
Tupelo has expressed interest in the Auburn system and filed a motion with the Mississippi Public Service Commission to prevent North Lee from getting it.
Tupelo attorney Otis Tims said Tupelo had told Mooreville-Richmond years ago it wanted Auburn, but Faust said he doesn’t recall such a statement. If he did, he said, he would have sold it to Tupelo instead of North Lee.
But North Lee has a new board of directors which has tried diligently to clean up its water and its business practices. Board President Ken Clemons said they’re doing everything they can to comply with the law.
The commission will hold a hearing on the matter within the next few months. It’s unclear what will happen since North Lee has been serving Auburn customers since last summer, despite lacking the legal right to do so.
“Had I known then what I know now about North Lee, we never would have even talked to them,” Faust said. “We’d rather Tupelo get it.”
The Auburn system serves a mostly residential area north of U.S. Highway 78 roughly halfway between Tupelo and Mooreville. It has two wells, one water tower and about 400 meters.
Mooreville-Richmond served Auburn for two decades, and sold it due to low water supplies. Although it had made an estimated $200,000 worth of improvements to the system during that time, it got just $12,500 from the sale, Faust said.
Some Auburn customers told the Daily Journal on Friday they noticed no difference in water quality when North Lee took over and don’t care who owns the system.
But Betty Harris of County Road 1438 said the water is better and cheaper with North Lee in charge, and she wants it to stay that way.
“I like it just the way it is,” Harris said. “Don’t change it.”