Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley visits with Starkville Rotary Club member Earnest B. "Happy" Deas after speaking at the Country Club in Starkville Monday afternoon. Photo by: Deanna Robinson/Dispatch Staff
November 8, 2016 11:27:00 AM
Plans for internet service expansion, low-cost wind power and industrial park development are each progressing and may soon contribute to economic development in Oktibbeha County.
Brandon Presley, Northern District Mississippi Public Service commissioner, discussed these projects during a Starkville Rotary Club meeting at the Starkville Country Club on Monday.
In his speech, Presley emphasized the commission's commitment to protecting and bolstering Oktibbeha County growth.
He began by recounting a call he received from Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman in August regarding the need for funds to lay a natural gas pipeline to service the Innovation District industrial park project, which is set on more than 300 acres near Highway 25 and Highway 182.
He said following the call, his office put "all hands on deck" and went to work to secure funding for the project, which resulted in a $13.3 million pilot program funded by Atmos Energy for the installation of the line.
"This is going to be a big part to the recruitment of industry to Oktibbeha County, and we know today that one of the main staples to economic development and a resurgence to manufacturing in Mississippi, in the South and in the nation is access to low-cost natural gas, which is an American energy source we're finding more of now than we ever thought we would," Presley said.
Presley added he is cautiously optimistic about plans for another project, one which would invest $700 million in the state for the wind power transmission line that could cross the Golden Triangle.
He said the commission expects to see filings for the Southern Cross Transmission line project by the end of November and has worked to ensure Oktibbeha stakeholders are represented in all relevant stages of planning and execution.
"The main thing we want before the company comes and files anything is crystal clear communication between the company and landowners in this county and throughout Mississippi," Presley said. "Secondly, I pledge to do this: Every county in which this line crosses and which landowners are affected, I will come back with a court reporter and hold a hearing after hours to listen to landowners, to listen to people in the county and to make sure that we're taking in the public's comments and weighing those as we go forward in this case. This is a big deal for Mississippi. This is a big project. This is a lot of dollars of investment, but there has to be a public interest test met."
Presley also spoke about the need for affordable internet infrastructure in rural areas and a forthcoming program that could help save veterans money on phone service.
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