Members of the Winona Board of Aldermen authorized amendments to enable the city to partner with Central Mississippi Inc. in paying water bills of certain residents.
Wording in the agreement led the mayor and members of the board to seek legal advice from Board Attorney Adam Kirk prior to entering into the partnership with CMI.
Kirk, referring to several statements in the agreement said, “[the] pays for water and wastewater.”
He went on to quote another statement in the agreement, “not to interrupt service, if money was pledged.”
The city is not to terminate service if the bill is late, he explained.
According to a document provided by Alderman Charles Harris, $35,000 has been allotted to the county for assistance in paying water bills for residents in need. The funding is not to be used to pay garbage bills.
“If they don’t pay their garbage bill, we have to keep their services on,” said Kirk.
He said several times during the meeting that specific wording in the agreement would allow for unfair treatment of residents in the city.
“It’s illegal to treat the citizens differently,” said Kirk.
Stephanye Peeples, CMI board chair, told the board and all in attendance that CMI has been partnering with Kilmichael and Duck Hill and payments toward water and sewer has not been late.
She also told the board the purpose of the program is to help people who can not afford to pay all of their bills, especially considering the economic effects people are enduring to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Alderman Charles Harris supported Peeples’ statement when he told the board, “Kilmichael mayor says they’re not having problems with being late.”
In an interview outside of the meeting, Harris said, “They’re saying our bylaws are stopping us from doing it, but in my opinion, we need to change our bylaws. With the price of everything and inflation, that program is to help people. I just think people need to do the extra work and reach out. I think everybody needs to step back and get on the same page to help the community. It’s going to be better for the community.”
Harris went on to say, “It’s my understanding, it’s $35,000 in their budget for it. If they don’t use it, they’ll lose it. When you have surrounding area people working with it, Kosciusko, Greenwood, Duck Hill and Kilmichael, they’re making it work. So, why can’t we make it work?”