Judge hears Abrams' appeal against Hattiesburg, no ruling issued

Judge hears Abrams' appeal against Hattiesburg, no ruling issued
Robert Abrams/Photo credit: WDAM

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The city of Hattiesburg was back in court Thursday, this time facing a Hub City resident and a grass roots organization.

Robert Abrams and his group, Hattiesburg Integrity Oversight Inc. filed an appeal in May 2016 challenging the Hattiesburg City Council's adoptions and amendments to city ordinances in a special-called meeting that was held April 28.

Despite a change in wastewater plans from the city of Hattiesburg, the appeal hearing was still heard by Judge Jon Mark Weathers in Forrest County Circuit Court.

In the appeal, eight points are brought forward, but with the city's Tuesday decision to scrap plans for a land application system, that eight was narrowed to four. The remaining four are ones that specifically target rate increases related to water and sewer.

"The rates went up, that's totally illegal, Kim Bradley and them had decided to go up on the rates, they don't need it," Hattiesburg resident Robert Abrams. said. "It was to take up the bonds which didn't pass and what are we paying for, they didn't borrow any money, they just taking money, probably to pay for something they already wasted."

During Thursday's hearing, Abrams' attorney, Michael Adelman, presented facts for his arguments on behalf of the appeals claims.

City attorney Rebecca Wiggs was on hand for the city, arguing that the basis of the appeal is not valid.

"In this particular context, because we are talking about rate increases and the work that the city did to do its homework to figure out what sort of rate increase would be necessary in order to meet any obligations of any bonds they might do," City of Hattiesburg Attorney Rebecca Wiggs said.

Wiggs added the whole issue is related to basic math.

"Its basic math, if they had failed to do basic math, if they had not raised the rates enough to meet the obligation of the bonds, that would be a problem, if they raised the rates more than they needed to, to meet the obligation that would be a problem," Wiggs said. "But that's not really what they are arguing about here, they are just arguing about the facts that rates are being raised in advance of knowing precisely how it is they will be used."

"Land application they said is off the books, I don't think so, I think the Kim Bradley is going to try to get it back in some kind of way," Abrams said. "They have wasted more money concerning this wastewater system which could have been solved two years ago."

According to Wiggs, Judge Weathers does not have the discretion to go outside the boundaries of looking at what the city council did back in April.

Wiggs added that Abrams and Hattiesburg Integrity are tasked with showing the burden of proof that actual harm was caused by the increase.

Judge Weathers did not issue a ruling on the appeal, he added that both parties arguments would be taken under advisement and he would rule at a later date.