Clay may seek grant for Pheba utility

Staff Writer

A grant could be the help a rural Clay County water association needs to improve its services.

Clay County supervisors will decide in two months whether to apply for a $600,000 -- the maximum allowed -- CDBG grant for the Sun Creek Water Association in Pheba. The utility is studying a new well and elevated water tank.

The project is expected to cost more than $1 million.

"We have been working with them on plans and their options and financing. They also may apply for Rural Development funds. They are worried about having to do a big rate increase and don't want that," Phyllis Benson, the grant coordinator for the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, told Clay supervisors Thursday.

The supervisors would have to apply for the CDBG grant in the utility's name. The Mississippi Development Authority recently announced it would take applications for this year's CDBG funds in May with about $11 million available for water, sewer and drainage projects and about $11 million for economic development.

If Sun Creek doesn't pursue its improvements, supervisors could apply for another project, Benson said.

"I suspect the state will fund 20 to 25 projects. It needs to be a good, solid project, it needs to be realistic," Benson advised the board.

Sun Creek is in the process of surveying its more than 500 households to determine needs, incomes and other factors that are part of the grant application and scoring formula for awarding the funds.

"They could scale back the project and just do the well and that might get them more in line," Supervisor Joe Chandler said of the options the utility is considering.

Benson also said supervisors should look around their districts for possible "brownfield" environmental hazard sites that could be surveyed under a grant being managed by the planning district.

"Brownfield" sites are properties previously used for industries or some other purpose that might have left environmental hazards or pollution that may block reuse of the property.

The grant pays for a tier 1 environmental assessment and if any issues are suggested, covers the second tier assessment. But the grant does not provide funds for clean up or mitigation.

West Clay Elementary currently is being surveyed, as is a closed industry in Eupora where city leaders hope to market the property to a developer as a retail site.

"If everything comes back clean, the city can go to someone and say this is good to go," Benson explained, noting the grant can be used for public or private property although using it on private property could present problems if clean up is required.

"The survey helps get some of the costs out of the way on the front end," she noted.

In other business, supervisors also learned the county's digital mapping project should be completed and approved by the state Department of Revenue by July,

The project started in October and originally was scheduled for up to 15 months but Toby Sanford, who is doing the work for the Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, said it is well ahead of schedule.

The high-tech system uses aerial GIS data to plot county tax and property maps more accurately, providing the most accurate information for everyone from land owners to surveyors and 911 coordinators.