Governor signs bill allowing Country Club to come off Jackson water
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A North Jackson neighborhood now has the state’s permission to come off of Jackson’s water system.
On Wednesday, Gov. Tate Reeves signed S.B. 2433, which allows the Country Club of Jackson Homeowners Association to switch back to the well system it used prior to the neighborhood’s annexation in the 1970s.
Breck Hines, president of the association, says he’s grateful for the support of the lawmakers who authored and backed the bill, as well as the governor for his signature.
He says the neighborhood is now going to bring back its engineers to determine how much it will cost to make the switch.
“So, I think with all else being the same, if costs were not an issue, we would do it tomorrow, because it has good, clean reliable water,” he said. “But as things are in this world, there are costs involved and we’ve got to nail those down before we do anything else.”
Country Club has 192 homes located in the northeast corner of the capital city. It was constructed in the 1960s and at the time was outside the city limits. Because of that, developers added a well system to provide homes there with water. When the neighborhood was annexed in the 1970s, it was added onto the municipal system.
Even after the neighborhood was added on the city system, the wells remained in place to serve the Country Club itself. The wells are subject to Mississippi State Department of Health regulations, and water must be tested weekly to ensure it meets safety standards.
“The water’s tested and maintained regardless because it has to serve the Country Club,” Hines added. “We’ve got a water system maintenance engineer, a guy that’s trained and certified and on staff, and they test the water weekly as well.”
According to the legislation, if the association elects to provide its own water, the city shall sell any water assets to it deemed necessary to do the work.
Those assets include main lines, service lines to residential buildings, meters and other assets in the subdivision that are owned by the city and used for the purpose of delivering water.
The bill also states the association will pay “fair market value” for those assets – an amount to be determined by an independent appraiser chosen by the association.
“We would have to work with the city on that, but the pipes... my guess is they don’t have any value and probably have a negative value and they need to be replaced, just like they do all over the city of Jackson.”
Hines says water mains in the neighborhood are 45 or 50 years old and, like elsewhere in Jackson, are falling apart. One break along St. Andrew’s Drive continues to leak, despite being patched by work crews multiple times.
“That’s what’s going on when you come down the hill to the Country Club. It’s always where there’s a perennial leak, and [there’s] always asphalt torn up,” he said. “We’re thankful for the city of Jackson, the employees that come out here and get that done but... that section of pipe should have been replaced.”
Country Club includes homes on St. Andrew’s Drive, Brae Burn Drive and other streets. It is represented by District 64 Rep. Shanda Yates and District 25 Sen. Walter Michel. Michel authored the bill, and Yates helped usher the bill through the House.
If the neighborhood decides to come off of the city system, it would join other entities that have announced they are or are considering doing the same.
Millsaps College, for, instance, announced it was coming off of Jackson water following the 2021 winter crisis. Meanwhile, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture has drilled its own well at the fairgrounds, and the city of Byram has announced it’s considering leaving, citing numerous crises.
Hines says numerous questions still must be answered before the decision is made, and that the neighborhood would have to make that decision collectively.
The recent influx of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds to shore up the city’s infrastructure also could play a role in the neighborhood’s decision.
“If we could snap our fingers and it’s fixed tomorrow, we would absolutely stay on the Jackson water system... but I think it’s going to take some time,” he said. “And, you know, when you’re filling up your kids’ water glasses for dinner every night wondering whether you’re [giving] them clean water or not, time slows down a lot in your mind.”
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