HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - During a lengthy exchange at Thursday's Harrison County Utility Authority meeting, Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel questioned payments made by his city to the utility authority.
"We're out $287,000 worth and we want to know who is responsible for that?" Schloegel asked.
Gulfport made the $287,000 payment for work that was supposed to be done between 2011 and 2012. At that time, S.H. Anthony was the contractor hired by the Harrison County Utility Authority to maintain lift stations across the county.
In July, 2012, Mayor Schloegel said the city took over 16 of those lift stations and discovered methane gas leaks and other issues.
"There's a letter from OSHA that says there's a high methane gas level at the Seaway Island Pump Station," Schloegel added. "There may be two other pump stations that have high methane issues and these need to be addressed. Let's investigate this and get to the bottom of this to find out what needs to be done."
We attempted to talk with S.H. Anthony's attorney after the board meeting. At that time, he said he was unavailable for comment. We also called him on his cell phone to ask about the mayor's concerns. But, that call wasn't returned.
"We have conducted a test of our cranes, the 16 that we took over... every test failed," Schloegel stated. "What I'm wondering now, whether there is some responsibility of those tests failing, is the city of Gulfport? And what I'm further wondering, what do the tests show for the remaining pump stations for the remainder of the county?"
When Supervisor Marlin Ladner heard that, he said the contractor, S.H. Anthony, should submit paperwork to show the work was actually done.
"Isn't he obligated to do those tests? If he didn't do it, we've got a problem," Ladner said.
Schloegel added, "What we're saying is what we got back... is broken. Now we'll deal with that we'll have to bring action on behalf of the city of Gulfport, but how many pump stations total do we have in the county? We know that 16 in Gulfport failed. It's been two years since we've done the 45. We don't know if those failed or not... somebody ought to be doing some checking."
When discussion about S.H. Anthony and the lift stations ended, utility authority board members voted to conduct an investigation.
Board President Billy Skellie said, "Motion carries."
But they didn't say when results of that investigation would be released.
S.H. Anthony is the same contractor linked to the dismissal of Kamran Pahlvan. The long time utility authority executive director recently lost his job when board members learned the owner of S.H. Anthony purchased a vehicle for Pahlvan.
Utility authority's attorney, Jim Simpson said, "The matter is still under advisement with the Utility Authority. It is not over and not complete. But the first priority is to get a new executive director in place Kamran's departure is unsettling enough without having more issues to further disrupt our business. We're going to get a new executive director in, but S.H. Anthony knows the matter is not closed. We've written him a letter and told him that we're going to address it as soon as we can get new executive director. It's not over."
We learned late Thursday afternoon the city of Gulfport no longer has S.H. Anthony working on any of the city's 16 lift stations. And that, a city spokesman says, is saving the city about $150,000 a year.