‘Tallest thing in Bovina’ coming soon

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Construction on a new water tank in Bovina should begin after Jan. 20, said John Gunn, the new Culkin Water District general manager.

Part of a long list of multimillion-dollar improvements undertaken by the district in the past five years, the 300,000-gallon elevated tank should improve service to the district’s southern reaches and be something of a landmark for the east Warren County community.

“It’ll be the tallest thing in Bovina,” Gunn said.

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Louisville, Ky.-based Caldwell Tanks took down the old silvery, weather-ravaged tank in November, one that predated the district’s service in the area. A foundation has been put in place and crews should take four to six weeks to erect a tank, Gunn said. The $3.2 million replacement is financed by the Drinking Water Systems Improvement Revolving Loan Fund, administered by the Mississippi State Department of Health. Culkin will pay back the loans at a 1.95 percent interest over 20 years, but district officials have said no rate changes are expected.

A 12-inch water line will feed the new tank, one that will begin near the water treatment plant on Birdsong Road and run under Interstate 20.

More than $867,000 in upgrades in the district since 2005 include hydrants and a new water main in Redwood, well and booster station upgrades and a new pressure tank in the Mount Alban area. Improvements that stretch beyond 2010 are pegged at more than $13.6 million, involving, among other items, a new office building, a fourth district-owned well to double purifying capacity to 4 million gallons and a systemwide upgrade of the district’s pipes so that the entire network is looped together. A mix of federal money and general obligation bonds is expected to supplement funding for the improvements as time passes.

Created by the Legislature in the 1950s, Culkin is among the oldest and is believed to be the largest independent water district in Mississippi. As of the last billing cycle, the current customer base stands at 4,613, Gunn said. With the increase of 500 or so connected taps in the past five years — and a dozen subdivisions planned inside the district’s northeast Warren County service area — the district’s new chief is confident the engineering will keep up with demand, even if funding is still to be determined.

“Engineers stay in continuous study,” said Gunn, who took over reins of the district Dec. 1 after a two-year stint in private business and more than seven years as public works director for the City of Carthage, in Leake County. Former manager Ken McClellan retired in August.

“It’s very similar — not unlike any other rural water system,” Gunn said of his previous water system experience in the central Mississippi city of about 4,800 and recent work with some of the same engineers at Neel-Schaffer, the Culkin advisory board’s engineering firm. “It was like deja vu when I walked in the door.”

Most water associations are private businesses with water quality measured by the state Department of Health and rates and service areas subject to Mississippi Public Service Commission control. Culkin is subject to state water quality standards, but it is a legal hybrid otherwise. Supervisors appoint board members, but they say they have no oversight authority. PSC authorities consider it a local government agency.

Culkin’s major commercial users are River Region Medical Center and facilities at Ceres Research and Industrial Interplex. As the district’s residential usage has expanded to pick up subdivisions and manufactured homes alike, Gunn emphasized basic steps to keep water usage at normal levels.

“Stay aware of leaks,” Gunn said. “The main issues are toilets. A stuck toilet can generate an enormous water bill over time. It’s kind of a silent creature. But, customers are accustomed to looking for leaks and monitoring their bills.”

Monthly rates, last increased in 2008, stand at $29.50 for up to 3,000 gallons. For more, the rate is $3.60 for every 1,000 gallons up to 1 million and then $3.10 for usage exceeding 1 million.

Warren County’s other nonmunicipal water districts are Fisher Ferry and Hilldale, with about 1,800 customers each in the south-central portions of the county, and the Yokena-Jeff Davis and Eagle Lake districts, with about 1,500 customers served between them. They are under PSC control.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at dbarrett@vicksburgpost.com