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PSC Says Punkin Water has Made Significant Improvements; More Needed

By Alyssa Schnugg
News Editor

Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley held a meeting Tuesday in Oxford to give Punkin Water Association members a chance to make any comments or complaints.
Photo by Alyssa Schnugg

Public Service Commission Member Brandon Presley said the Punkin Water Association has made monumental improvements in the past year.

However, some members said the PWA still has work to do.

In April 2018, residents who receive water from the Punkin Water Association voiced their concerns about water quality and poor management before Presley at a public meeting.

After the meeting, Punkin Water was required to make improvements to existing wells, as well as requiring the association to be more transparent by notifying members of meetings and making bylaws and meeting minutes more accessible.

In a follow-up meeting Tuesday at the Lafayette County Chancery Building, Presley remarked on the lesser amount of people at the meeting compared to last year’s meeting.

“We’re here tonight to hear what people’s concerns are, to go through this order and take things point-by-point,” Presley said.

A year ago, residents who receive water from the Punkin Water Association voiced their concerns about water quality and poor management before Presley at a public meeting.

Presley said his office has received seven complaints about the PWA since April 2018. Six were made last summer and one in May of this year; however, it was a billing dispute.

The quality of the water has improved for most residents. The PWA did some work to help reduce the iron in the water.

However, the few people who spoke up at the meeting said most of their frustrations with the PWA still focus on its transparency and lack of communication.

Resident Max Hill told Presley the PWA is slow to answer questions, posts minutes and agendas hours before their meeting, and only posts emergency notices about boil-water-notices or broken lines on its Facebook page and through the automated Iris call system.

“Not everyone has Facebook,” Hill said.

Of the 800 or so residents in the PWA area, only about 100 people have signed up for the service.

The members of the PWA board at the meeting agreed to post minutes seven days prior to meetings and post notices on the PWA website.

Hill also said the PWA has yet to have an audit done, which is required by state law.
The PWA board agreed to have the board’s CPA at a future board meeting to discuss doing an audit.

After the May meeting with the PCS, the city of Oxford later agreed to enter into an agreement with PWA via a master meter connection allowing PWA to purchase between 50,000 and 250,000 gallons of water daily.

That agreement included requiring PWA to put a water main at the University Avenue and Highway 334, which would cost about $500,000.

PWA’s attorney said the city and PWA have hit a snag in moving forward with that plan.

PWA told Oxford Utilities that it wanted the city to pay for a portion of the pipe since it would be inside the city limits and if they didn’t want to do that, they could give the PWA a cheaper rate on the water.

However, it was later learned that Oxford could not pay for the pipe nor give the PWA a different rate than it charges any other out-of-county customer.

That leaves the PWA to absorb the cost of putting in the line and start purchasing water from Oxford, or to start looking at other options for purchasing water or digging a new well.

“We need to study that and report back to the board so they can decide if they want to continue with Oxford or pursue finding water to purchase elsewhere,” Woods told Presley.

Construction inside the PWA’s area has been halted for almost a year until the water association can increase its capacity.

Presley ordered the PWA to continue to send the PSC monthly reports on the status of the purchase of water from Oxford.

All reports are made available on the PWA website at http://punkinwater.com/. The PWA Board meets at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of the month at the Lafayette County Chancery Building. 


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