City leaders were not surprised to hear Harrisburg's water and sewer system is in bad shape.
"Well, I think the presentation we saw was already known," said City Council President Carter Carroll.
The rate study was presented to council members Monday by a representative with engineering firm Shows, Dearman & Waits, Inc. The review found rates consistent and "relatively economical," yet insufficient for proper management, operations and maintenance.
"With infrastructure close to 100-years-old in parts of our city, with us being looked at by a lot of different governmental entities for our sanitary sewer water overflows, with people dealing with brown water, we know we need to bring solutions," said Mayor Toby Barker. "We can't just bring band-aids."
The study showed maintenance and rehabilitation are critical for Hattiesburg's water and sewer system. One of the suggestions to fund that is a rate increase to keep up with future investment projects.
"It's the basic components of civilization, in order for civilization to exist, we need clean water and we need our waste paid for," said the representative with the engineering firm.
The review showed rates in the Hub City have continued to stay lower than the national average since the 1990s, close to $20 less in 2014. Incremental increases were passed by previous council through 2018, but the next step will be up to the current council.
"We're understanding now why we might not have had the funds we need at times to take care of things and maintain them," said Ward 4 Councilwoman Mary Dryden. "But, I see that happening now in Hattiesburg, and I see a level of optimism that has me really happy about being in this city."
"I think rate increases are a piece of the puzzle, but I think we have to do a better job as a city being efficient with the resources we have," said Barker.
Other suggestions from the study include rate models being updated annually with audited information, a Comprehensive Rate Study completed every five years and organizational and operational inefficiencies being eliminated.