SALTILLO • The long-awaited switch to cleaner and more expensive surface water has begun in Saltillo.

“Once we get everything connected and ready to go, we will send out a letter to all the citizens with a date of when the switch will take place,” said Saltillo Mayor Rex Smith. “We’ll be reminding people that when we switch over, it will stir up stuff and there could be some discoloration.”

Last week, work crews began assembling the valves and 8-inch meter needed to make the large connection between the city’s water system and the Northeast Mississippi Regional Water Supply District. Contractors reconnected the main lines in front of Omega Motion Tuesday morning. The same day, the water district made a connection on a 4-inch line near Euclatubba Road, according to Smith.

While the connections have been made, it will be some time before surface water collected and treated at Peppertown flows through the Saltillo pipes.

Crews started installing the meter pit in the industrial park, which will take several days. The installation of the altitude valve at one water tank could be completed next week.

Smith said the city will work to make sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible.

“If we find out it will be ready the last week of the month, we are not going to make the switch the day before Thanksgiving,” Smith said. “We will schedule flushes to try to remove sediment and deposits.

“Where the water will be flowing the opposite direction, it could scour the line and loosen deposits.”

The city appears to be on track to finish the roughly $250,000 project well before the self-imposed deadline of Dec. 31.

After months of complaints about dirty, cloudy and sometimes smelly water, the board voted in July 2018 to switch from well water and begin purchasing pretreated surface water from the water district. In the 16 months since aldermen first approved the switch for $114,000, which included a $24,000 reconnect fee to the water district, the cost has steadily increased. When the project was bid in September 2018, it had to include an altitude valve for one elevated water tank and the total price tag swelled to more than $180,000.

Most Saltillo water customers have already seen an increase in rates to pay for the switch as well as the increased cost of buying water, instead of pumping it out of city wells.

In late August, aldermen approved a new rate schedule which makes the average water bill around $32. Every water customer, regardless of where they live, will now pay $17.50 for the first 2,000 gallons and $5.80 for each additional 1,000 gallons. Folks living inside the city limits and those within one mile will see increases of around 18.5 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively.

The state public service commission has to approve any rate changes for customers who live more than one mile outside the city. Commissioner Brandon Presley is expected to approve the new rate for those 167 customers, who have not seen a rate increase since 2007.

According to Presley, one customer contested the rate increase, forcing the commission to take an extra notification process that has delayed the final decision. He hopes to be able to rule on the rate increase by the end of next week.

william.moore@journalinc.com

Twitter:@WilliamMoore_DJ

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