Hancock Co. Utility Authority blames cities for financial crisis

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The Hancock County Utility Authority says if it can't get the cities of Bay St. Louis and Waveland to purchase water from them, the Utility Authority could go broke.

Authority leaders say after Hurricane Katrina, when the federal government gave Hancock County $55 million to put up six-new water wells and five-water tanks, leaders in both cities agreed to buy their water from the Utility Authority. But the authority says that's yet to happen.

"The budget is going in the hole every month," said G.W. Graham.

Graham is Chairman of the Hancock County Utility Authority Board. He said the utility authority has had to take between $15,000 and $20,000 a month from its wastewater treatment account to pay to operate the water system for the past three years.

"It can't keep going like it is right now. If everybody would participate this here would work," said Graham.

Graham said the previous administrations in both Bay St. Louis and Waveland signed agreements to help pay for maintenance and operating costs for the new water system, as well as purchase water from the authority. It was part of the stipulation to get the federal funds.

"When you get elected, you've got to take the responsibility of the last man," said Graham.

Right now Waveland and Bay St. Louis get water from their own city wells. Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame told WLOX his city has been waiting for the authority's water system to be fully extended to the Bay.

"Bay St. Louis has a huge stake in the ongoing success and sustainability of the Utility Authority. So as the systems were built out and became available to the city, which they've just become this summer. So it's of utmost importance for us to sit at the table and decide how we're going to utilize that tremendous system that's been built to the benefit of all of our citizens," said Fillingame.

Waveland Alderwoman Lili Stahler, who sits on the Utility Authority Board, told WLOX,  "Waveland adds fluoride to its water and the Utility Authority's doesn't. Therefore we can not participate at this time."

Utility Authority says so far neither city has paid maintenance and operation costs since the agreements were made.

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