Breaking faith, growing pains or a power play?
Sunday, Dec. 3, 2000
Lately it seems the only thing Meridian and Marion have in common is the first letter of their names. Beyond that, the two neighbors have shown little inclination to agree on much of anything.
The latest dispute to bubble up across the backyard fence involves the route of a new water and sewer system to NAS Meridian and charges levied by Meridian on residents of Marion for sewage service.
The truth is residents of Marion have been getting a sweetheart of a sewage treatment deal at least since 1986 when the Meridian City Council levied a rate of 67 cents per thousand gallons. Meridian residents pay $2.43 per thousand gallons.
In an effort to secure a permanent source of water and sewer service for NAS Meridian, a step officials believe will help the base avoid the next dreaded round of base closures, engineers recommended running a route of new pipes through a portion of Marion.
In recent months, Marion's aldermen have attempted to keep their sewage rates low, using the NAS project as leverage. You can run your pipes through here as long as our rates stay the same, they told Meridian.
But Marion's bargaining chip crumbled last week when the Meridian City Council voted unanimously to bypass Marion with a new route to NAS Meridian and to raise Marion's sewage treatment fees to the rate currently paid by Meridian residents. The move will add $200,000 to the cost of the NAS project and quadruple sewage rates paid by residents of Marion.
Marion says the Meridian action breaks faith with an existing agreement. Meridian says that old action does not bind the current council.
Charges, countercharges, accusations and fingerpointing will not resolve this dispute. Legal action would be costly and could delay an essential project to a U.S. military facility whose loss would cause economic chaos all across east Mississippi.
The plain fact is NAS Meridian needs the water and sewer service. This entire community needs NAS Meridian.
Surely, officials of both Meridian and Marion can put aside their selfishness, cool the rhetoric and cooperate for a change in something that benefits both.