HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A 4-1 vote Tuesday by the Hattiesburg City Council approved a task order with engineering firm Neel-Schaffer to oversee the city's wastewater project.
"We will bring forward our recommendations back to the city, and at that time, the city can decide to go one direction, it can go any direction it chooses to," said Neel-Schaffer's Nathan Husman.
Phase One of the order as it stands is 3,493,00 dollars, which includes the tasks of an influent testing program, topographic survey and preliminary design.
"We don't start design, true design, until the city authorizes us and tells us what process the city would like to use," explained Husman.
Which type of wastewater facility the city will choose to build is still up for debate.
The task order states that Neel-Schaffer will consider full mechanical, partly mechanical (effluent polishing) or a process that meets permit limits, which could open the door to other options, if it gets the approval of the firm.
"If we determine that they will not meet your [city's] long term needs, we will bring that forward to you," said Husman. "You can still require us to go through some other process beyond that, but we will give you our initial recommendations prior to spending any time on a particular process."
The city faces a September 2018 deadline to have the entire project up and running, and Husman said the initial process they are set to begin is an 18-month project that will have to be completed in 11 months in order to meet MDEQ deadlines.
"I think we have enough safeguards that we can assure the citizens that whatever the best program is out there, we can certainly utilize and go forward," said Ward 3 councilman Carter Carroll of the need for urgency on this matter.
Ward 5 councilman Henry Naylor appeared to have reservations before Tuesday's vote when he asked Mayor Johnny DuPree three times if the mayor would support the council's decision to move forward with Neel-Schaffer.
"I hope that everything that we've talked about and agreed upon, that they follow through with that, and if that's the case, then yes," confirmed DuPree.
Naylor did not say why he asked the mayor those questions during the council meeting, but Tuesday's vote comes just two months after the council gave the mayor approval to terminate a multimillion dollar contract with Groundworx, the company the city originally chose to complete an environmentally friendly land application system to treat and dispose of the city's wastewater.