HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Hattiesburg City Council has set deadlines to secure the land needed to build land application wastewater treatment system for the city.
"I think we're all in agreement that by the end of June, if we don't have this land under contract or options to buy or lease it, then we're going to have to move to plan C," said Kim Bradley, Hattiesburg City Council president. "And quite honestly, plan C is not what majority council wanted to do, but then again, we can't just continue to keep pushing back and believing that this thing's going to happen when there's just so many obstacles that it can't."
Bradley said "Plan C" is scrapping the land application system entirely and building a mechanical wastewater treatment system.
"I believe the plans for mechanical plant are almost 70 percent complete, and they would dust that off and start again," he said. "We've got to do this. The government has, and we agreed with the government in federal court, that we would abide by the ordinance or by the court's order. We're going to have a wastewater treatment system in place."
Bradley said the majority of the land the city is considering is in Forrest County
"Where we're looking now is really just Forrest County and Camp Shelby," he said. "Camp Shelby has the same issues that the city of Hattiesburg has. It has a discharge permit into the Leaf River, and it's under the same criteria that ours is. And they don't have a system to treat it, just as we don't. They would love to partner with us. They've got the land. We have the means, and hopefully something can become of that as well. We're working diligently, like I said, to identify private land, that public land, to replace the Lamar County land if possible. If we can't, we'll move forward and try to eminent domain that. I believe that's something that's coming about. But we've got to know where we stand here shortly, so we can either turn the switch and keep moving forward or focus our attention in another direction."
Here's a map from Hattiesburg's wastewater attorney Keith Turner of the areas in Forrest County the city is looking to buy or lease:
"We are working, our team is working, diligently to identify this land, to get some testing, there's testing being done on some land right now, and we'll find that 8,000 or 9,000 acres that we need to get this project moving forward," Bradley said.
While Bradley said he would like to replace the 3,000 acres of land in Lamar County the city is considering and he said it is still an option.
"There's no doubt it is on the table because by far, it is the absolute best land that we have because of just the makeup of the soil," he said. "It's sandy. It will absorb a lot of water. It'd just be absolutely perfect for what it is that we're trying to do. But if we don't have that resolved in the next 60 days, you can't pull the trigger and obligate the city to several million dollars in something, and then get a few years down the road and all of a sudden, you don't have a deal. You can't do that. We've got to identify whether that land or other land."
If the city does identify the land, Bradley said Hattiesburg could start construction before the end of the year.
"If we had it under contract or under option to buy, we've identified all of it, then we would be able to close on it," Bradley said. "We have the money to close on it. That we the $25 million, and then we have in line the $65 million to begin construction. We would be able to close by August. We would be able to finalized plans, put the project to bid, and we would actually have, you know, shovels in the ground you're talking October. We would have most of it up and running in 18 to 20 months."
Bradley said he is ready for Hattiesburg to stop planning and start doing.
"We can still meet the timelines, but we've got to get moving," he said. "I think the council and the mayor, we all understand that. We just can't sit back and continue thinking that this is all going to work out. It's time for it to come to a conclusion. It's been a lot of time involved in this. Personal time, time away from my business, not just going to council meetings and things, and it is. It's time to move on, one way or the other. Whether it's a land app system or a mechanical treatment system, we need to, we need to find that solution and move forward (with) something that can be completed, and not just waiting on information, more information, like we've been in this mode now for a year or year and a half. We need to move on."