FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The Forrest County School District could make millions of dollars by allowing Hattiesburg to build a land application wastewater treatment system.
"We've been involved in discussions with the potential of the land application service for the City of Hattiesburg," said Brian Freeman, superintendent of the Forrest County School District. "So this is not something that's happened overnight."
Freeman said the district approved leasing 600 acres of its16th Section land south of Hattiesburg to the city to build a spray field.
"Through the discussion of what needs to use the land application for, that 16th Section is very appropriate," Freeman said. "It's all timber land. There's no residential area through there that it would affect. The current lease that we're receiving is just a very nominal fee because it's hunting and fishing where this lease with Hattiebsurg would actually be commercial, and it would be ten times the amount of money we're currently getting. So from a financial standpoint, it really made a lot of sense."
Freeman said leasing the land and being able to harvest the timber could bring in millions over the course over the lease.
"Just on the leasing portion, we're looking at maybe one and a half teacher units based on a new teacher, so that's certainly, with the recent cuts that we've experienced, a very positive matter that can compensate for some of the money we've lost," he said. "But over the course of the lease, we're talking millions of dollars. The benefit of the trees, being able to harvest twice as fast, so depending on the market at the time we cut the trees, it could be a windfall to help with buses, buildings and things like that."
Freeman said part of the land to be leased is part of a township that is shared with Petal School District.
"So actually Petal will receive portions of this income as well because of the ways it's spaced and divided by the laws," he said.
He said the city still needs to sign off on a final lease.
"I believe we have approved a preliminary lease with them," Freeman said. "The final lease, I believe, would be active in September or October if they sign on. Our board has granted them the rights to explore the final version of whether we're going to go forward with this application, and of course, it's really up to the city if this application is approved by their people."