Water & Sewer Expansion Plans Meet Opposition

Is it about future annexation or encouraging housing developments? That question was at the heart of a heated debate Thursday at the Harrison County Wastewater Authority meeting in Gulfport.

D'Iberville asked the board's permission to expand its water and sewer lines into an unincorporated area that includes the site for the new D'Iberville High School.

The Wastewater Board originally agreed with D'Iberville's expansion on the condition that county supervisors and the city of Biloxi sign off on it. That didn't happen because of Biloxi's concerns about future annexation. But D'Iberville leaders say that's not what's at issue.

At the meeting, Biloxi's mayor made it known his city was against allowing D'Iberville to expand its water/sewer district.

Mayor A.J. Holloway said, "The district was wrapping around the city of Biloxi and our area of growth."

D'Iberville already services some areas outside its city limits. Right now, there are approximately nine square miles where the city would like to expand. D'Iberville's mayor says this is where developers have told him they want to build subdivisions.

Mayor Rusty Quave said, "Our main concern is there are a lot of homeless people on the Gulf Coast staying in FEMA trailers that need to get out of those trailers."

The new high D'Iberville High School is scheduled to open on Lamey Bridge Road in 2008. Afraid the school would get caught in the water-sewer expansion debate, Harrison County supervisors proposed to the Utility Board that the county pay $200,000 to service the new school. The board agreed unanimously.

"The school is a very important issue, not only for the city of D'Iberville, but for the county," said Supervisor Larry Benefied. "So we felt it was necessary to eliminate that from that discussion and go ahead and make a decision to take care of the school."

With the way cleared for the school, everyone on the Wastewater Board agreed it was better to take no action and let the Public Service Commission decide if D'Iberville's service should expand.

"I'm pleased with today's decision," said Mayor Holloway. "It's the right thing to do. Let the Pubic Service Commission make that decision and not this Authority here."

Mayor Rusty Quave said, "Both cities want to grow, and that will come at a later date. That will be a decision made by an annexation judge and not by the Water & Sewer District of Harrison County."

D'Iberville city leaders say there is no date set to appear before the Public Service Commission, but they expect to have a meeting sometime between January and March.

The Wastewater Board did approve D'Iberville's request for permission to let $13.5 million in bonds for projects, including a major upgrade of its sewer treatment plant.