2006 Regular Session
To: Environment Prot, Cons and Water Res; Finance
By: Senator(s) Moffatt, Cuevas, Dawkins, Gollott, Hewes, Lee (47th), Morgan, Robertson, Walley
AN ACT TO CREATE THE GULF REGION WATER UTILITY AUTHORITY FOR THE COASTAL REGION OF THE STATE; TO EMPOWER THE AUTHORITY; TO PROVIDE FOR A BOARD OF DIRECTORS FOR THE AUTHORITY; TO REQUIRE THE AUTHORITY TO PROVIDE WATER, STORM WATER AND WASTEWATER SERVICES AND FACILITIES; TO REQUIRE THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY TO DEVELOP A MASTER PLAN FOR WATER, STORM WATER AND WASTEWATER SERVICES FOR THE AREA WITHIN THE AUTHORITY; TO PROVIDE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MASTER PLAN; TO REQUIRE WATER, STORM WATER AND WASTEWATER PROJECTS TO COMPLY WITH THE MASTER PLAN; TO AUTHORIZE THE AUTHORITY TO ISSUE REVENUE BONDS FOR SUCH PROJECTS; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. This act may be cited as the "Gulf Region Water Utility Authority Act."
SECTION 2. In accordance with the report of the Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal, the Legislature finds that there is a need for consolidation of water, wastewater and storm water services in order to reduce costs, promote resilience in the event of disaster, improve the quality of the natural environment, and improve the planning and delivery of quality services to all residents within the Counties of George, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River and Stone. It is further declared that there is need for the planning, acquisition, construction, maintenance, operation and coordination of user-funded water, storm water and wastewater systems in order to ensure protection of the waters of the state and to ensure the delivery of water, storm water and wastewater services to citizens within these counties. The creation of the Gulf Region Water Utility Authority is determined to be necessary and essential to the accomplishment of these purposes.
SECTION 3. (1) Words and phrases used in this act shall have meanings as follows:
(a) "Act" means the Gulf Region Water Utility Authority Act as same is amended from time to time.
(b) "Authority" means the Gulf Region Water Utility Authority.
(c) "Board of directors" or "board" means the Board of Directors of the Gulf Region Water Utility Authority.
(d) "Bonds" mean interim notes having a maturity of three (3) years or less, revenue bonds and other certificates of indebtedness of the authority issued under the provisions of this act.
(e) "Costs of the project" means:
(i) All costs of site preparation and other start-up costs;
(ii) All costs of construction;
(iii) All costs of real and personal property required for the purposes of the project and facilities related thereto, including land and any rights or undivided interest therein, easements, franchises, fees, utility charges, permits, approvals, licenses and certificates and the securing of any permits, approvals, licenses and certificates and all machinery and equipment, including motor vehicles, which are used for project functions;
(iv) All costs of engineering, geotechnical, architectural and legal services;
(v) All costs of plans and specifications and all expenses necessary or incident to determining the feasibility or practicability of the project;
(vi) Administrative expenses; and
(vii) Any other expenses as may be necessary or incidental to the project financing.
(f) "Department" means the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.
(g) "Fiscal year" means the period of time beginning on July 1 of each year and ending on June 30 of each year.
(h) "Groundwater" means that water occurring beneath the surface of the ground.
(i) "Groundwater system" means a system for the drainage, conservation, development, utilization, impoundment, diversion, flowage, distribution and disposal of groundwater.
(j) "Master plan" means the comprehensive plan for the development of regional water, wastewater and storm water systems that incorporates existing systems and includes new systems to provide efficient, environmentally sound, and storm resistant water, wastewater and storm water infrastructure protective of human health for all municipalities and political subdivisions within George, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River and Stone Counties. The master plan shall address current and future infrastructure needs and involves the acquisition, construction, development, maintenance and operation of water, wastewater and storm water systems.
(k) "Municipality" means any incorporated city, town, or village of the State of Mississippi, whether operating under general law or under special charter, lying wholly or partly within the boundaries of the authority.
(l) "Person" means the State of Mississippi, a municipality, any public agency, or any other city, town, village or political subdivision or governmental agency, governmental instrumentality of the State of Mississippi or of the United States of America, or any private utility, individual, copartnership, association, firm, trust, estate or any other entity whatsoever.
(m) "Public agency" means any county, municipality or person lying wholly or partially within the boundaries of the authority, any state board or commission owning or operating properties within the boundaries of the authority, any district created pursuant to the general laws of the State of Mississippi or local and private laws of the State of Mississippi, including, but not limited to, the Harrison County Wastewater and Solid Waste Management District, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Wastewater Authority in Jackson County, the Southern Regional Wastewater District in Hancock County, or any other political subdivision of the State of Mississippi lying wholly or partially within the boundaries of the authority and having the power to own and operate waterworks, water supply systems, sewerage systems, treatment facilities, sewage treatment systems, or other facilities or systems for the collection, transportation, and treatment of water, storm water and wastewater.
(n) "Sewage treatment system" means a system for collecting, transferring, treating and disposing of wastewater, including, but not limited to, sewerage systems and treatment facilities, as these terms are defined in this act.
(o) "Sewerage system" means pipelines or conduits, canals, pumping stations and force mains, and all other structures, devices, facilities and appliances appurtenant thereto, used for collecting or conducting wastewater to an ultimate point for treatment.
(p) "Storm water" means any flow occurring during or following any form of natural precipitation and resulting from that precipitation.
(q) "System" means any plants, structures, facilities and other real and personal property used or useful in the collection of wastewater for ultimate discharge into trunk lines, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, sewers, conduits, pipelines, mains, pumping and ventilating stations, plants and works, connections and any other real and personal property and rights therein necessary or useful or convenient for the purposes of the authority in connection therewith. System also includes any plants, structures, facilities, pipelines, conduits and other real and personal property used for the purpose of collecting, storing, treating and transporting water for domestic, municipal, commercial, industrial, agricultural and manufacturing purposes. System also includes plants, structures, facilities, pipelines, conduits and other real and personal property used for the collection, transfer, treatment and disposal of storm water.
(r) "Treatment systems" means the collective or individual systems for collecting, transferring, treating and disposing of sewage, water, wastewater, storm water and groundwater, or its particular individual substance, and including all treatment facilities, pipelines, conduits, pumping stations and all other structures, devices and appliances appurtenant thereto, including land and right-of-way thereto.
(s) "Trunk lines" means trunk sewers and other structures and facilities used or useful in the conducting of wastewater from collection facilities to treatment plants, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, conduits, pipelines, mains, pumping and ventilating stations and any other real and personal property and rights therein necessary or useful or convenient for the purposes of the authority in connection therewith.
(t) "Wastewater" means water being disposed of by any person and which is contaminated with waste or sewage, including industrial, municipal, and any other wastewater that may cause impairment of the quality of the waters in the state.
(u) "Water supply system" means pipelines, conduits, pumping stations and all other structures, devices and appliances appurtenant thereto, including land and right-of-way thereto, for use for transporting water to a point of ultimate use.
(v) "Waterworks" means all works, plants or other facilities necessary for the purpose of collecting, storing, treating and transporting water for domestic, municipal, commercial, industrial, agricultural and manufacturing purposes, including open channels.
SECTION 4. (1) In order to ensure the protection of human health and the environment, in particular the waters of the state, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality is hereby empowered and authorized, in addition to any other powers, to develop a master plan, with input from all affected counties and municipalities within the boundaries of the authority, for the delivery of water, storm water and wastewater services for the areas within the authority.
(2) The master plan shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
(a) An inventory of the sources, composition and quantities, and quality of wastewater and storm water annually generated within the boundaries of the authority, and the source, composition and quality of drinking water currently available throughout the authority's territory;
(b) An inventory of all existing facilities where wastewater is currently being managed, including the environmental suitability and operational history of each facility, and the remaining available permitted capacity for each facility;
(c) An inventory of existing potable water treatment and distribution systems within the boundaries of the authority. The inventory shall identify the entities engaging in treatment and distribution of potable water on a wholesale and retail basis;
(d) A strategy for achieving reduction of pollution to waters of the state by wastewater and storm water and to improve the quality and ensure the availability of potable water available to the residents within the boundaries of the authority;
(e) A projection of wastewater and storm water generated within the boundaries of the authority over the next twenty (20) years and a projection of the potable water needs of the area within the boundaries of the authority within the next twenty (20) years;
(f) An identification of the additional facilities, including an evaluation of alternative treatment and management technologies, and the amount of additional capacity needed to manage the quantities projected in paragraph (e);
(g) An estimation of development, construction and operational costs;
(h) A plan for meeting any projected capacity shortfall, including a schedule and methodology for attaining the required capacity;
(i) Prioritization of infrastructure;
(j) A projection of demographic changes in the six (6) counties to determine future service needs;
(k) Identification of barriers that are restricting population growth and solutions to facilitate population growth;
(l) Identification, evaluation and incorporation of existing water, wastewater and storm water plans or planning efforts in the six (6) counties; and
(m) Any other information as determined by the department or the authority.
(3) The authority may assume the powers and duties for the implementation and revision of the master plan upon entering into a memorandum of agreement with the department.
(4) (a) All proposed water, wastewater and storm water projects within the boundaries of the authority must be in compliance with the master plan. All proposed projects must be submitted to the department or authority, as the case may be, for review of compliance and approval or disapproval. If a proposed project is disapproved for failure to comply with the master plan, a statement listing the deficiencies in compliance shall be included with the notice of disapproval.
(b) Compliance with the state plan does not relieve the obligation to comply with other applicable state agency regulatory requirements.
(c) All permit applicants who apply for required water, wastewater and storm water related permits within the boundaries of the authority must include a certification that the proposed water, wastewater and storm water projects are consistent with the master plan.
SECTION 5. There is hereby created the Gulf Region Water Utility Authority composed of George, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River and Stone Counties for the planning, acquisition, construction, maintenance, operation and coordination of user-funded water, storm water and wastewater systems in order to ensure protection of the waters of the state and to ensure the delivery of water, storm water and wastewater services to citizens within the counties.
SECTION 6. (1) (a) All powers of the authority shall be exercised by a board of directors to be composed of a total of nine (9) directors appointed as provided in this subsection.
(b) Upon passage of this act, the Governor shall appoint one (1) resident from each county within the authority. The initial terms of the members appointed under this paragraph shall be as follows: the George County director shall serve for one (1) year; the Hancock County director shall serve for two (2) years; the Harrison County director shall serve for three (3) years; the Jackson County director shall serve for four (4) years; the Pearl River County director shall serve for five (5) years; the Stone County director shall serve for six (6) years. Upon the expiration of the initial term of a director appointed by the Governor under this paragraph, subsequent appointments of directors shall be made by the board of supervisors of the county that the director whose term has expired represents.
(c) The Governor shall appoint three (3) at-large members. At-large members shall be residents of the district. Upon passage of this act, the Governor shall appoint the at-large members whose initial terms shall be for two (2), four (4) and six (6) years, respectively, as designated by the Governor. The appointments made under this paragraph shall be made so that no county shall have more than three (3) residents on the board of directors.
(d) After the expiration of the initial terms of the directors, all subsequent terms shall be for a period of six (6) years. An appointment to fill a vacancy shall be for the balance of the unexpired term.
(e) At the initial meeting of the board, the board shall elect a president and a vice president, and the board shall have the ability to appoint an executive director, secretary and treasurer. Thereafter, the board will annually, at the last meeting of the fiscal year, elect a president and vice president who shall serve in their respective offices for the next fiscal year. The directors shall serve without a salary but are entitled to receive a per diem.
(2) The president shall be the chief executive officer of the authority and the presiding officer of the board, and shall have the same right to vote as any other director. The vice president shall perform all duties and exercise all powers conferred by this act upon the president when the president is absent or fails or declines to act, except the president's right to vote. The executive director, secretary and treasurer shall each give bond in the sum of not less than One Hundred Thousand Dollars ($100,000.00), as set by the board of directors, and each director may be required to give bond in the sum of not less than Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000.00), with sureties qualified to do business in this state, and the premiums on said bonds shall be an expense of such authority. Each bond shall be payable to the State of Mississippi. The condition of each bond shall be that the executive director, secretary, treasurer or director will faithfully perform all duties of his office and account for all money or other assets which shall come into his custody as treasurer or director of such authority.
(3) A quorum for any meeting of the board of directors shall be the majority of the total membership of the board of directors. All business of the authority shall be transacted by vote of the board of directors.
(4) Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 51-39-1 et seq., the authority shall have full power to adopt rules and regulations and to construct, maintain and operate facilities for the control of storm water quality. The provisions of Section 51-39-1 et seq. do not apply to the authority. The provisions of Section 51-33-1 et seq. relating to drainage districts and flood control districts do not apply to the authority.
SECTION 7. (1) To become a member of the authority, any county, municipality, public agency, or other person within the boundaries of the authority must pass a duly adopted resolution joining the authority and expressly stating that it is subject to the authority's jurisdiction and power, with such resolution spread upon its official minutes and the authority must approve the county, municipality, public agency or other person for membership.
(2) A copy of the resolution shall be furnished to the Mississippi Public Service Commission by the county, municipality, public agency or other person becoming a member of the authority. Accordingly, the Mississippi Public Service Commission shall cancel any certificate of public convenience and necessity applicable thereto.
SECTION 8. (1) The authority shall have the right and powers necessary to carry out the purposes of this act, including, but not limited to:
(a) To sue and be sued, in its own name, provided that the authority shall not be liable and shall be immune from suit at law or in equity on account of any wrongful or tortious act or omission including libel, slander, or defamation by it, or any such act or omission by an employee of the authority, subject to and in accordance with the provisions of Sections 11-46-1 through 11-46-23;
(b) To adopt an official seal and alter the same at pleasure;
(c) To maintain office space at such place or places within the authority boundaries as it may determine;
(d) To own/lease real or personal property;
(e) To invest money of the authority;
(f) To manage, approve and establish standards, including the appropriateness of the use of individual on-site wastewater treatment systems;
(g) To construct new and centrally located facilities and build new systems in unincorporated areas that have no service-area entity established or in uncertificated areas;
(h) To coordinate funding from state, local and federal sources;
(i) To provide a six-county contract for all operation and maintenance needs of the authority;
(j) To pass necessary ordinances imposing fees and requirements for transport lines within the boundaries of the authority;
(k) To develop and maintain long-range planning for collection and treatment systems of water, wastewater, storm water and groundwater from within the areas encompassed by the authority and for pollution abatement;
(l) To require the necessary relocation or rerouting of roads and highways, railroad, telephone and telegraph lines and properties, electric power lines, gas pipelines and related facilities, or to require the anchoring or other protection of any of these, provided the cost of relocating and rerouting is first paid to the owners or an agreement with such owners regarding the payment of the cost of such relocation, and to acquire easements or rights-of-way for such relocation or rerouting and to convey the same to the owners of the property being relocated or rerouted in connection with the purpose of this act;
(m) To enter into contracts with any person or any public agency, including, but not limited to, contracts authorized by Section 13 of this act, in furtherance of any of the purposes authorized by this act upon such consideration as the board of directors and such person may agree. Any such contract may extend over any period of time including a term which extends beyond the term of the then majority of the existing board members, notwithstanding any provision or rule of law to the contrary; may be upon such terms as the parties thereto shall agree; and may provide that it shall continue in effect until bonds specified therein, refunding bonds issued in lieu of such bonds, and all other obligations specified therein are paid or terminated. Any such contract shall be binding upon the parties thereto according to its terms;
(n) To make and enforce, and from time to time amend and repeal, bylaws and rules and regulations for the management of its business and affairs and for the construction, use, maintenance and operation of any of the systems under its management and control and any other of its properties;
(o) To employ and terminate staff and other personnel, including attorneys, engineers and consultants as may be necessary to the functioning of the authority. The board of directors, in its discretion, may employ an executive director having the authority to employ and fire employees and other duties as determined by the authority;
(p) To apply for, accept and utilize grants, gifts and other funds from any source for any purpose necessary in support of the purpose of this act;
(q) To establish and maintain rates and charges for the use of the services of such of the systems and facilities within the control of the authority, and within the areas encompassed by the authority, and from time to time to adjust such rates, to the end that the revenues therefrom will be sufficient at all times to pay the expenses of operating and maintaining such of its works, facilities and treatment systems and all of the municipality's obligations under any contract or bond resolution with respect thereto. Such rates shall not be subject to the jurisdiction of the Mississippi Public Service Commission;
(r) To adopt rules and regulations necessary to carry out the implementation of the master plan and to assure the payment of each participating person or public agency of its proportionate share of the costs for use of any of the systems and facilities of the authority;
(s) To refuse to receive wastewater and storm water from any public agency or subdivision thereof not currently using any system and which may be acquired or within the control of the authority, or any other person that does not comply with the provisions of the master plan applicable to the particular area within which such public agency or subdivision thereof or any other person is located;
(t) To accept industrial wastewater from within the boundaries of the authority for treatment and to require the pretreatment of same when, in the opinion of the authority, such pretreatment is necessary; and
(u) So long as any indebtedness on the systems of the authority remains outstanding, to require by contract with a public agency, or other person, that all water, wastewater and storm water within the boundaries of the authority be disposed of through the appropriate treatment system which comprise a part of the master plan, to the extent that the same may be available, but no public agency shall be precluded from constructing, operating and maintaining its own such system after the current indebtedness owing on the system as of the effective date of this act is paid in full.
(2) The authority may assume control and administer water, wastewater and storm water systems within the boundaries of the authority by agreement with the governing board providing such services that request to be relieved of that responsibility. However, the governing board shall maintain authority over connections in their service areas and may charge a premium in addition to the treatment charges of the regional authority. The governing board shall be responsible for collecting treatment fees from local customers or members.
(3) The authority may review and approve water and sewer connections in addition to any approvals required by the Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Health.
(4) The authority may create, maintain and regulate reservoirs and to promulgate and enforce rules and regulations for the creation and maintenance of reservoirs.
(5) The authority may control and operate local retail water, wastewater and storm water services and may provide or be responsible for direct servicing of those services to residences, businesses and individuals; however, the authority shall not provide the same services in an area provided by a public utility or person holding a certificate of public convenience or necessity issued by the Mississippi Public Service Commission for the provision of such services in the certificated area.
(6) The authority may acquire and rebuild existing water, wastewater and storm water systems owned by any public utility as defined by Section 77-3-3(d)(iv).
SECTION 9. (1) Any public agency may contract with the authority for the management, operation and usage of its treatment systems and treatment facilities, or other services for the agency. The obligations of a public agency arising under the terms of any contract, whether or not payable solely from a pledge of revenues, shall not be included within the indebtedness limitations of the public agency for purposes of any constitutional or statutory limitation or provision.
(2) Contracts referred to in this section may also provide for payments in the form of contributions to defray the cost of any purpose set forth in the contract and as advances for the respective systems or any part thereof subject to repayment by the authority. The payments are not subject to approval by the Public Service Commission.
SECTION 10. The authority may acquire water and sewer trunk lines; acquire, construct, improve, enlarge, extend, repair, operate and maintain one or more systems used for the collection, transportation, and treatment of water, wastewater and storm water and contract with any person for such purposes. The authority may contract with any person, within its designated area, to collect, transport, treat or dispose of water, wastewater and storm water for such person. The authority also may contract with any person to design and construct any water, wastewater or storm water treatment systems, or any other of its treatment facilities or systems and thereafter to purchase, lease or sell, by installments over such terms as may be deemed desirable, reasonable and necessary, any such system or systems. The authority is authorized to enter into operating agreements with any person, for such terms and upon such conditions as may be deemed desirable, for the operation of any water, wastewater or storm water treatment systems, or other of its treatment facilities or systems; and the authority may lease to or from any person, for such term and upon such conditions as may be deemed desirable, any water, wastewater or storm water, collection, transportation, treatment, or its other treatment facilities or systems. Any such contract may contain provisions requiring any public agency or other person to regulate the quality and strength of materials to be handled by the respective treatment system or systems and also may provide that the authority shall have the right to use any streets, alleys and public ways and places within the jurisdiction of a public agency or other person during the term of the contract.
SECTION 11. (1) (a) The authority shall have the duty and responsibility to exercise general supervision over the design, construction, operation and maintenance of water, wastewater or storm water treatment systems;
(b) The authority may adopt rules and regulations governing the design, construction or installation, operation and maintenance of water, wastewater or storm water treatment systems and establishing performance standards for water, wastewater or storm water treatment systems;
(c) All rules and regulations shall be consistent with the master plan developed by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality;
(d) Such rules and regulations may include the implementation of a standard application form for the installation, operation and maintenance of such treatment systems; application review; approval or denial procedures for any proposed system; inspection, monitoring and reporting guidelines; and enforcement procedures;
(e) Rules and regulations for individual on-site wastewater treatment systems may be adopted by the authority.
(2) The authority may adopt rules and regulations regarding the construction of a residence, building, facility or development which may require the installation of a water, wastewater or storm water treatment system.
(3) Any system of any county, municipality, public agency or other persons which becomes connected with, or tied into, the treatment systems of the authority, shall be subject to its jurisdiction and the terms of this act.
SECTION 12. (1) (a) The authority may acquire by condemnation property necessary for any system and the exercise of the powers, rights, and duties conferred upon the authority by this act.
(b) Any county, municipality, public agency or other person being a member agency, or being connected with, or tied into, the collection, transportation or treatment systems of the authority may agree to use its eminent domain powers to acquire such property, easements, rights-of-way and other property interests as may be required and requested by the board of directors for the benefit of the authority and at the cost of the authority as provided in this subsection.
(c) The authority may reimburse or pay all costs, including professional fees, along with damages awarded in connection with the exercise of such eminent domain power by a member agency or other entity under the terms of this act.
(2) The amount and character of interest in land, other property, and easements thus to be acquired shall be determined by the board of directors, and their determination shall be conclusive and shall not be subject to attack in the absence of manifold abuse of discretion or fraud on the part of such board in making such determination. However:
(a) In acquiring lands, either by negotiation or eminent domain through action of a member agency, the authority shall not acquire mineral rights or royalties; sand and gravel shall not be considered as minerals within the meaning of this section;
(b) No person or persons owning the drilling rights or the right to share in production shall be prevented from exploring, developing or producing oil or gas with necessary rights-of-way for ingress and egress, pipelines and other means of transporting such interests on any lands or interest of the authority held or used for the purposes of this act, but any such activities shall be subject to reasonable regulations by the board of directors that will adequately protect the systems or projects of the authority; and
(c) In acquiring lands, either by negotiation or eminent domain through action of a member agency, the authority shall acquire only any interest or rights in such facilities, components and systems which are part of the master plan implemented by the authority.
SECTION 13. (1) The authority may enter into contracts with any public agency, pursuant to a duly adopted resolution of the governing authority of such public agency, to manage, operate and contract for usage of its treatment systems and treatment facilities, or other services, for such person or public agency. Any public agency or person may also enter into contracts for the authority to purchase or sell, by installments over such terms as may be deemed desirable, or otherwise, to any person any treatment systems. Any public agency is authorized to enter into operating agreements with the authority, for such terms and upon such conditions as may be deemed desirable, for the operation of any of its treatment systems of any person by the authority or by any person contracting with the authority to operate such treatment systems; and any public agency may lease to or from the authority, for such term and upon such conditions as may be deemed desirable, any of its treatment systems. Any such contract may contain provisions requiring any public agency or other person to regulate the quality and strength of the material to be handled by the water, wastewater or storm water systems and may also provide that the authority shall have the right to use any streets, alleys and public ways and places within the jurisdiction of a public agency or other person during the term of the contract. Such contracts may obligate the public agency to make payments to the authority or to a trustee in amounts which shall be sufficient to enable the authority to defray the expenses of administering, operating and maintaining its respective systems, to pay interest and principal (whether at maturity upon redemption or otherwise) on bonds of the authority, issued under this act and to fund reserves for debt service, for operation and maintenance and for renewals and replacements, and to fulfill the requirements of any rate covenant with respect to debt service coverage contained in any resolution, trust indenture or other security agreement relating to the bonds of the authority issued under this act. Such contracts may include a pledge of the full faith and credit of such public agency and/or the avails of any special assessments made by such public agency against property receiving benefits, as now or hereafter is provided by law. Any such contract may provide for the sale, or lease to, or use of by the authority, of the systems or any part thereof, of the public agency; and may provide that the authority shall operate its systems or any part thereof of the public agency; and may provide that any public agency shall have the right to continued use and/or priority use of the systems or any part thereof during the useful life thereof upon payment of reasonable charges therefor; and may contain provisions to assure equitable treatment of persons or public agencies who contract with the authority under this act; and may contain such other provisions and requirements as the parties thereto may determine to be appropriate or necessary. Such contracts may extend over any period of time, notwithstanding any provisions of law to the contrary, and may extend beyond the life of the respective systems or any part thereof or the term of the bonds sold with respect to such facilities or improvements thereto. Any public agency may donate property to the authority for the purposes herein without the necessity of appraisal, advertising or bid. This section creates an alternative method of disposal of public property. Any public agency may contribute case or in-kind contributions to assist the purposes of the authority. Any public agency may assist the authority in borrowing by lending its credit worthiness to the authority for any borrowing.
(2) The obligations of a public agency arising under the terms of any contract referred to in this act, whether or not payable solely from a pledge of revenues, shall not be included within the indebtedness limitations of the public agency for purposes of any constitutional or statutory limitation or provision. To the extent provided in such contract and to the extent such obligations of the public agency are payable wholly or in part from the revenues and other monies derived by the public agency from the operation of its treatment systems or of its combined treatment systems, waterworks and water supply systems or any part thereof, such obligations shall be treated as expenses of operating such systems.
(3) Contracts referred to in this section may also provide for payments in the form of contributions to defray the cost of any purpose set forth in the contracts and as advances for the respective systems or any part thereof subject to repayment by the authority. A public agency may make such contributions or advances from its general fund or surplus fund or from special assessments or from any monies legally available therefor.
(4) Payments made, or to be made, to the authority by a public agency or other person under a contract for any of its treatment systems, or any part thereof, shall not be subject to approval or review by the Mississippi Public Service Commission.
(5) Subject to the terms of a contract or contracts referred to in this act, the authority is hereby authorized to do and perform any and all acts or things necessary, convenient or desirable to carry out the purposes of such contracts, including the fixing, charging, collecting, maintaining and revising of rates, fees and other charges for the services rendered to any user of any of the systems operated or maintained by the authority, whether or not such systems are owned by the authority.
(6) No provision of this act shall be construed to prohibit any public agency, otherwise permitted by law to issue bonds, from issuing bonds in the manner provided by law for the construction, renovation, repair or development of any of the authority's treatment systems, or any part thereof, owned or operated by such public agency.
SECTION 14. Whenever a public agency executes a contract under this act and the payments are to be made either wholly or partly from the revenues of the public agency's treatment systems, or any part thereof, or a combination of such systems, the duty is hereby imposed on the public agency to establish and maintain and from time to time to adjust the rates charged by the public agency for the services of such treatment systems, so that the revenues therefrom together with any taxes and special assessments levied in support thereof will be sufficient at all times to pay: (a) the expense of operating and maintaining such treatment systems including all of the public agency's obligations to the authority, its successors or assigns under such contract; and (b) all of the public agency's obligations under and in connection with revenue bonds theretofore issued, or which may be issued thereafter and secured by the revenues of such treatment systems. Any such contract may require the use of consulting engineers and financial experts to advise the public agency whether and when such rates are to be adjusted.
SECTION 15. (1) The authority shall have the power and is hereby authorized, from time to time, to borrow money and to issue revenue bonds and interim notes in such principal amounts as the authority may determine to be necessary to provide sufficient funds for achieving one or more of the purposes of this act, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, to defray all the costs of the project, the cost of the acquisition, construction, improvement, repair or extension of a system, or any part thereof, whether or not such facilities are owned by the authority, the payment of interest on bonds of the authority issued pursuant to this act, establishment of reserves to secure such bonds and payment of the interest thereon, expenses incident to the issuance of such bonds and to the implementation of the authority's system, and all other expenditures of the authority incident to or necessary or convenient to carry out the purposes of this act.
(2) Before issuing bonds (other than interim notes or refunding bonds as provided in Section 16 of this act) hereunder, the board of directors of the authority shall adopt a resolution declaring its intention to issue such bonds and stating the maximum principal amount of bonds proposed to be issued, a general generic description of the proposed improvements and the proposed location thereof and the date, time and place at which the board of directors proposes to take further action with respect to the issuance of such bonds. The resolution of the authority shall be published once a week for at least three (3) consecutive weeks in at least one (1) newspaper having a general circulation within the geographical limits of all of the public agencies which have contracted with the authority pursuant to this act and whose contracts relate to the bonds proposed to be issued.
(3) Bonds of the authority issued pursuant to this act shall be payable from and secured by a pledge of all or any part of the revenues under one or more contracts entered into pursuant to this act between the authority and one or more of its member public agencies and from all or any part of the revenues derived from the operation of any designated system or any part or parts thereof and any other monies legally available and designated therefor, as may be determined by such authority, subject only to any agreement with the purchasers of the bonds. Such bonds may be further secured by a trust indenture between such authority and a corporate trustee, which may be any trust company or bank having powers of a trust company without or within the state.
(4) Bonds of the authority issued pursuant to this act shall be authorized by a resolution or resolutions adopted by a majority affirmative vote of the total membership of the board of directors of the authority. Such bonds may be issued in series, and each series of such bonds shall bear such date or dates, mature at such time or times, bear interest at such rate or rates (not exceeding the maximum rate set out in Section 75-17-103, Mississippi Code of 1972, as amended), be in such denomination or denominations, be in such form, carry such conversion privileges, have such rank or priority, be executed in such manner and by such officers, be payable from such sources in such medium of payment at such place or places within or without the state, provided that one such place shall be within the state, and be subject to such terms of redemption prior to maturity, all as may be provided by resolution or resolutions of the board of directors.
(5) Bonds of the authority issued pursuant to this act may be sold at such price or prices, at public or private sale, in such manner and at such times as may be determined by such authority to be in the public interest, and such authority may pay all expenses, premiums, fees and commissions which it may deem necessary and advantageous in connection with the issuance and sale thereof.
(6) Any pledge of earnings, revenues or other monies made by the authority shall be valid and binding from the time the pledge is made. The earnings, revenues or other monies so pledged and thereafter received by such authority shall immediately be subject to the lien of such pledge without any physical delivery thereof or further act, and the lien of any such pledge shall be valid and binding as against all parties having claims of any kind in tort, contract or otherwise against such authority irrespective of whether such parties have notice thereof. Neither the resolution nor any other instrument by which a pledge is created need be recorded.
(7) Neither the members of the board of directors nor any person executing the bonds shall be personally liable on the bonds or be subject to any personal liability or accountability by reason of the issuance thereof.
(8) Proceeds from the sale of bonds of the authority may be invested, pending their use, in such securities as may be specified in the resolution authorizing the issuance of the bonds or the trust indenture securing them, and the earnings on such investments applied as provided in such resolution or trust indenture.
(9) Whenever any bonds shall have been signed by the officer(s) designated by the resolution of the board of directors to sign the bonds who were in office at the time of such signing but who may have ceased to be such officer(s) prior to the sale and delivery of such bonds, or who may not have been in office on the date such bonds may bear, the manual or facsimile signatures of such officer(s) upon such bonds shall nevertheless be valid and sufficient for all purposes and have the same effect as if the person so officially executing such bonds had remained in office until the delivery of the same to the purchaser or had been in office on the date such bonds may bear.
(10) The authority has the discretion to advance or borrow funds needed to satisfy any short-term cash flow demands or deficiencies or to cover start-up costs until such time as sufficient bonds, assets and revenues have been secured to satisfy the needs of the authority.
SECTION 16. (1) Refunding bonds. The authority may, by resolution adopted by its board of directors, issue refunding bonds for the purpose of paying any of its bonds at or prior to maturity or upon acceleration or redemption. Refunding bonds may be issued at such time prior to the maturity or redemption of the refunded bonds as the board of directors deems to be in the public interest, without an election on the question of the issuance thereof. The refunding bonds may be issued in sufficient amounts to pay or provide the principal of the bonds being refunded, together with any redemption premium thereon, any interest accrued or to accrue to the date of payment of such bonds, the expenses of issue of the refunding bonds, the expenses of redeeming the bonds being refunded, and such reserves for debt service or other capital or current expenses from the proceeds of such refunding bonds as may be required by the resolution, trust indenture or other security instruments. The issue of refunding bonds, the maturities and other details thereof, the security therefor, the rights of the holders and the rights, duties and obligations of the authority in respect of the same shall be governed by the provisions of this act relating to the issue of bonds other than refunding bonds insofar as the same may be applicable. Any such refunding may be effected, whether the obligations to be refunded shall have then matured or shall thereafter mature, either by the exchange of the refunding bonds for the obligations to be refunded thereby with the consent of the holders of the obligations so to be refunded, or by sale of the refunding bonds and the application of the proceeds thereof to the payment of the obligations proposed to be refunded thereby, and regardless of whether the obligations proposed to be refunded shall be payable on the same date or different dates or shall be due serially or otherwise.
(2) Interim notes. Borrowing by the authority may be made by the delivery of interim notes to any person or public agency or financial institution by a simple majority vote of the board of directors.
SECTION 17. All bonds (other than refunding bonds, interim notes and certificates of indebtedness, which may be validated) issued pursuant to this act shall be validated as now provided by law in Sections 31-13-1 through 31-13-11, Mississippi Code of 1972, as amended from time to time; however, notice of such validation proceedings shall be addressed to the citizens of the State of Mississippi and the citizens of the respective member public agencies (a) which have contracted with the authority pursuant to this act, and (b) whose contracts and the payments to be made by the public agencies thereunder constitute security for the bonds of such authority proposed to be issued, and that such notice shall be published at least once in a newspaper or newspapers having a general circulation within the geographical boundaries of each of the member public agencies to whose citizens the notice is addressed and within the State of Mississippi. Such validation proceedings shall be instituted in any chancery courts within the boundaries of the authority. The validity of the bonds so validated and of the contracts and payments to be made by the public agencies thereunder constituting security for the bonds shall be forever conclusive against the authority and the public agencies which are parties to said contracts; and the validity of said bonds and said contracts and the payments to be made thereunder shall never be called in question in any court in this state.
SECTION 18. Bonds issued under the provisions of this act shall not be deemed to constitute, within the meaning of any constitutional or statutory limitation, an indebtedness of the authority or any member agency thereof. Such bonds shall be payable solely from the revenues or assets of the authority pledged therefor. Each bond issued under this act shall contain on the face thereof a statement to the effect that such authority shall not be obligated to pay the same nor the interest thereon except from the revenues or assets pledged therefor.
SECTION 19. The authority shall have power in connection with the issuance of its bonds to:
(a) Covenant as to the use of any or all of its property, real or personal.
(b) Redeem the bonds, to covenant for their redemption and to provide the terms and conditions thereof.
(c) Covenant to charge rates, fees and charges sufficient to meet operating and maintenance expenses, renewals and replacements, principal and debt service on bonds, creation and maintenance of any reserves required by a bond resolution, trust indenture or other security instrument and to provide for any margins or coverages over and above debt service on the bonds deemed desirable for the marketability of the bonds.
(d) Covenant and prescribe as to events of default and terms and conditions upon which any or all of its bonds shall become or may be declared due before maturity, as to the terms and conditions upon which such declaration and its consequences may be waived and as to the consequences of default and the remedies of the registered owners of the bonds.
(e) Covenant as to the mortgage or pledge of or the grant of a security interest in any real or personal property and all or any part of the revenues from any designated system or any part thereof or any revenue-producing contract or contracts made by such authority with any person to secure the payment of bonds, subject to such agreements with the registered owners of bonds as may then exist.
(f) Covenant as to the custody, collection, securing, investment and payment of any revenues, assets, monies, funds or property with respect to which such authority may have any rights or interest.
(g) Covenant as to the purposes to which the proceeds from the sale of any bonds then or thereafter to be issued may be applied, and the pledge of such proceeds to secure the payment of the bonds.
(h) Covenant as to the limitations on the issuance of any additional bonds, the terms upon which additional bonds may be issued and secured, and the refunding of outstanding bonds.
(i) Covenant as to the rank or priority of any bonds with respect to any lien or security.
(j) Covenant as to the procedure by which the terms of any contract with or for the benefit of the registered owners of bonds may be amended or abrogated, the amount of bonds the registered owners of which must consent thereto, and the manner in which such consent may be given.
(k) Covenant as to the custody of any of its properties or investments, the safekeeping thereof, the insurance to be carried thereon, and the use and disposition of insurance proceeds.
(l) Covenant as to the vesting in a trustee or trustees, within or outside the state, of such properties, rights, powers and duties in trust as such authority may determine.
(m) Covenant as to the appointing and providing for the duties and obligations of a paying agent or paying agents or other fiduciaries within or outside the state.
(n) Make all other covenants and to do any and all such acts and things as may be necessary or convenient or desirable in order to secure its bonds, or in the absolute discretion of the authority tend to make the bonds more marketable, notwithstanding that such covenants, acts or things may not be enumerated herein; it being the intention hereof to give any authority power to do all things in the issuance of bonds and in the provisions for security thereof which are not inconsistent with the Constitution of the state.
(o) Execute all instruments necessary or convenient in the exercise of the powers herein granted or in the performance of covenants or duties, which may contain such covenants and provisions, as any purchaser of the bonds of such authority may reasonably require.
SECTION 20. The authority may, in any authorizing resolution of the board of directors, trust indenture or other security instrument relating to its bonds, provide for the appointment of a trustee who shall have such powers as are provided therein to represent the registered owners of any issue of bonds in the enforcement or protection of their rights under any such resolution, trust indenture or security instrument. The authority may also provide in such resolution, trust indenture or other security instrument that the trustee, or in the event that the trustee so appointed shall fail or decline to so protect and enforce such registered owners' rights then such percentage of registered owners as shall be set forth in, and subject to the provisions of, such resolution, trust indenture or other security interest, may petition the court of proper jurisdiction for the appointment of a receiver of the waterworks, water supply system or sewage disposal system, the revenues of which are pledged to the payment of the principal of and interest on the bonds of such registered owners. Such receiver may exercise any power as may be granted in any such resolution, trust indenture or security instrument to enter upon and take possession of, acquire, construct or reconstruct or operate and maintain such system fix charges for services of the system and enforce collection thereof, and receive all revenues derived from such system or facilities and perform the public duties and carry out the contracts and obligations of such authority in the same manner as such authority itself might do, all under the direction of such court.
SECTION 21. (1) The exercise of the powers granted by this act will be in all respects for the benefit of the people of the state, for their well-being and prosperity and for the improvement of their social and economic conditions, and the authority shall not be required to pay any tax or assessment on any property owned by the authority under the provisions of this act or upon the income therefrom; nor shall any authority be required to pay any recording fee or transfer tax of any kind on account of instruments recorded by it or on its behalf.
(2) Any bonds issued by the authority under the provisions of this act, their transfer and the income therefrom shall at all times be free from taxation by the state or any local unit or political subdivision or other instrumentality of the state, excepting inheritance and gift taxes.
SECTION 22. All bonds issued under the provisions of this act shall be legal investments for trustees, other fiduciaries, savings banks, trust companies and insurance companies organized under the laws of the State of Mississippi; and such bonds shall be legal securities which may be deposited with and shall be received by all public officers and bodies of the state and all municipalities and other political subdivisions thereof for the purpose of securing the deposit of public funds.
SECTION 23. The state hereby covenants with the registered owners of any bonds of any authority that so long as the bonds are outstanding and unpaid the state will not limit or alter the rights and powers of any authority under this act to conduct the activities referred to herein in any way pertinent to the interests of the bondholders, including, without limitation, such authority's right to charge and collect rates, fees and charges and to fulfill the terms of any covenants made with the registered owners of the bonds, or in any other way impair the rights and remedies of the registered owners of the bonds, unless provision for full payment of such bonds, by escrow or otherwise, has been made pursuant to the terms of the bonds or the resolution, trust indenture or security interest securing the bonds.
SECTION 24. The provisions of this act are cumulative of other statutes now or hereafter enacted relating to the issuance of bonds and systems; and to the design, construction, acquisition or approval of facilities for such purposes, and any public agency may exercise all presently held powers in the furtherance of this act.
SECTION 25. If any clause, sentence, paragraph, section or part of the provisions of this act shall be adjudged by any court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, such judgment shall not affect, impair or invalidate the remainder thereof directly involved in the controversy in which such judgment shall have been rendered.
SECTION 26. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.