djr-2018-12-14-biz-msfirstp4

Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley.

SALTILLO • Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley pledged to do everything he can to help speed along the Saltillo switch to river water.

Around 100 people attended a public hearing Thursday night to discuss a 35-page management review of the Saltillo Water Department. While some people did ask questions, most wanted to know two things – when will they have better water and how much will it cost.

Presley echoed the timeline approved Tuesday night by the Saltillo Board of Alderman, saying the PSC order would call for the switch to be completed by Dec. 31. He noted that since the city will have to start buying water from the Northeast Mississippi Regional Water Supply District, there will be some additional costs to the customers.

“Under the rate proposed in the study, the average bill will be $31.31,” Presley said. “That is a slight increase, but it is still less than the rate increase the city first proposed last November.”

He added that the new rates and rate structure will be the same for everyone. Currently, people inside the city pay one rate. There is a second rate for customers within a mile from the city limits. Folks living more than a mile outside the city limits pay a separate rate. In order to increase the rates for the third group, the city has to get approval from the PSC.

As long as the city comes up with one rate for everyone that fits within the study’s parameters, Presley said it will be supported.

“We will expedite the rate case to make sure that doesn’t slow down the process,” Presley said. “It’s my understanding that the city will file the proposed rate increase with us within 30 days.”

The audit, ordered by Presley and to be paid for by Saltillo, looked at the system infrastructure (wells and water tanks) as well as the department’s financial management.

While the switch to river water should solve the city’s problem of dirty, cloudy or smelly water, it will not happen overnight. Water flowing a different direction in pipes will break loose sediment.

“There will be a short period of dirty water at times in sections of the system after the switch,” Presley said. “There is no way around it.”

william.moore@journalinc.com Twitter:@WilliamMoore_DJ

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