City man argues Connection fees

Published 4:53 pm Tuesday, January 8, 2019

By Jeremy Weldon

A Panola County homeowner is contesting a $272.54 balance the City of Batesville says he owes for connections to the city’s water and sewer systems at his new residence.

Maurice Market spoke to the city board members at last Wednesday’s meeting. His property is at 176 E. Oak Hill Cove, just feet outside the city limits. Market paid about $1,500 in fees and permits, he said, but was dismayed to find he still has a balance with the city.

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Aldermen were told by Public Works Director David Karr that the balance represents the standard labor fee to have a tap connected to existing lines by city workers for new accounts. Karr reminded aldermen that previous ordinances for utility fee approved by the board mandates that all customers outside the city limits, but still receiving city water and sewer service, must pay the labor fee.

Market argued that he was told by city employees that his property was inside the city limits and that he only later learned that his land is just outside the official boundary. Additionally, Market said the fee was unfair because the city workers only marked the spot of the tap with a flag, and his own plumber made the actual connection.

Aldermen were sympathetic to Market’s plight, but were firm that the fee could not be waived, even if there was an initial misunderstanding about the location of the water and sewer lines. Board members told Market, who is also a Panola County sheriff’s deputy, they were willing to work him to extend the payment due date or set up a partial-payment plan, but he was insistent the bill should be cleared.

Aldermen took no action to reduce the bill, and Market left the meeting after indicating he will be in contact with an attorney about the matter. Once that statement was made, assistant board attorney Colmon Mitchell said it should be considered as pending litigation and not discussed any further at the meeting.

In other city board action:

  • ● Fire Chief Tim Taylor was given permission to purchase six sets of bunker turnout gear for firemen from Sunbelt Fire Equipment for $15,185.70.
  • ● Approved the payment of $13,368 to Gulf States Engineering Co. for emergency repairs in water and sewer infrastructure breakdowns.
  • ● Approved the payment of audit fees to Jones & Jones CPAs in the amount of $96,000.
  • ● Gave approval to the Planning Commission’s recommendation that Ernie Capwell be allowed a conditional use permit to sell cooked and live crawfish at the vacant lot between East Oaks Shopping Center and the Shell station on Hwy. 6. The board gave Capwell a two-year permit for the location.