MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - Public Service Commissioner Leonard Bentz says it's critical Moss Point fix the problems plaguing the city-owned gas system. He held another public hearing Thursday to learn what improvements have been made to make the utility more safe and efficient.
Commissioner Bentz told residents at the hearing they may need to make other plans to stay warm this winter. He says shutting off the natural gas in the city is "the last thing" he wants to do. But, he warned, that action may be necessary for safety's sake.
"I didn't get us in this situation. But I assure you that I will do everything I can to ensure that the citizens of Moss Point are safe. And if that means cutting the gas off, then I'm going to have to do it," said Commissioner Bentz.
The main issue is safety. More than 40 percent of the natural gas in the city owned and operated system is either leaking or unaccounted for.
"We've made the commitment to not put a Band Aid on the line. We need to replace the lines. We're ready to get it to where it needs to be," said Amy St. Pe, the city attorney for Moss Point.
Leaks seem to be the main culprit. A leak survey, that's not yet finished, has already found 88 leaks.
"A preponderance of the gas loss is leaks. They're fixing them. But they've also got the issue of corrosion. And so you fix a leak today and there's another leak over here tomorrow," said gas system consultant C.J. Arnold.
"What has become very, very obvious is that the City of Moss Point, as a gas operator-owner, does not know what it's doing. And hasn't for a long time. Everything that's being repaired is being repaired and brought to your attention by contractors. By outside entities," said PSC attorney Shawn Shurden.
"We do need to sit down and make sure the action plan that is in place is acceptable. And then you can hold us accountable if we're not doing it. But there's a lot to be done. I think we've done a lot. And I think we're moving in the right direction," said Moss Point Mayor Aneice Liddell.
"If we aren't to a point where I feel comfortable that we need to be, I am going to take legal action to shut the gas system off in the City of Moss Point. It is the last thing that I want to do," said Commissioner Bentz.
Moss Point Ward One Alderman Sherwood Bradford spoke at the hearing. He said the city is working hard to fix the problems and he was personally offended by some of the commissioner's comments, which he saw as unfair criticism toward the leadership of Moss Point.
A final report from the ongoing leak survey should be finished in two weeks. At that time, Commissioner Bentz will decide what's next.