Okolona hears water bill concerns

By Floyd Ingram/Chickasaw Journal

OKOLONA – There are exceptions to every rule and the Okolona Board of Mayor and Aldermen are seeking a fair way to address water usage concerns.

The city was approached by two residents at last week’s meeting seeking relief for their water bills with aldermen wanting to help, but at the same time provide a uniform policy for all residents.

Steve Schultz approached the board seeking a reduction in his sewer bill after filling his swimming pool this summer. Schultz said he was told the city had a new policy requiring anyone with water bill concerns to approach the board.

Okolona was forced to invoke a strict water/sewer bill policy last fall after it was discovered that some meters had been read incorrectly or not at all for several years.

When the Okolona Water Department sent out bills of $300 and $400 for one month citizens demanded answers and a town hall meeting was called and the Okolona City Council made a compromise to fix the problem.

The city also set policy that said all future water bill corrections and concerns would be sent to the board.

“I’m not asking for my water bill to change – I used that water and I owe that bill,” said Schultz. “I was told the city could make a one-time annual adjustment to sewer bills when you filled your pool.”

Okolona does have a policy allowing residents a credit on their water bill when they fill their pool.

The motion to grant Schultz the sewer credit was made by Ward 6 Alderman Anthony Floyd and seconded by Ward 4 Alderman Imogene Armstrong. The vote was unanimous.

The board also was informed of a situation on Academy Street were four buildings had been hooked to one meter and the residents split the bill. When other residents moved out and didn’t pay their share, the bill was sent to the last resident. That resident was unable to pay the $700 bill and the city was forced to cut off her water.

“I don’t think this is a fair situation and I want the city to look at setting up a policy for dealing with something like this,” said Mayor Louise Floyd Cole. “She has paid a substantial portion of this bill and just wants her water back one.”

Richie Cousin, Okolona Water Department Superintendent, said this is one of the last split meters in town and city policy no longer allowed split meters. Cousin also said Okolona is connected to a national network of water departments and those who owe a bill in Okolona will be cited for that bill if they seek water service in other cities in the state and across the country.

On a motion by McVey and a second by Ward 2 Alderman Bennett Moore the board asked Cousin to turn the water back on as the city reviews its policy on split-meter bills.

In other business:

* The city heard from Jerry Petty, Okolona Airport Administrator, on activity at the airport.

Petty said the city is offering aviation fuel at competitive rates and will see a profit of about $1,000 on the latest purchase of fuel. He also pointed out the 12 new hangers are full and most of the six older hangers are being rented.

Ward 1 Alderman Kenneth McVey said he was concerned taxpayers were bearing part of the cost of the airport but were not allowed on the grounds.

Petty said for security reasons the airport gate only opened for those with the proper code. Pate said anyone could call the Okolona Police Department, identify themselves and be given the code.

* Mayor Cole said work continues on the round-about on Main Street and final details will be announced in the next few weeks. Cole also said the Mississippi Department of Transportation monument to Sen. Jack Gordon would be erected later this summer.

* Cole informed the board she was meeting with Okolona School District Conservator James Malone to discuss the city’s appointment of three new school board members.

Cole said details of this process were still being hammered out by the state and she would update aldermen with the progress of that process at their next board meeting.

* The board was updated on the city’s street paving project and told culverts and storm pipe has been installed along Monroe Avenue and debris was being removed from ditches and watersheds.