November 6, 2013 9:39:57 AM
William Browning - [email protected]
The town of Caledonia is getting a new water and sewage department head.
Barrett Baggett, chosen to be the department's new superintendent, is slated to begin work on Nov. 18. He will take over for Benny Coleman, who is retiring early next year.
The Caledonia Board of Aldermen unanimously voted to offer the position to Baggett last Wednesday. Baggett formerly accepted the position soon thereafter.
He will make approximately $50,000 a year, Mayor Bill Lawrence said.
Lawrence said that while the town had a handful of "very good candidates" for the position, Baggett stood out because of his familiarity with the town's water system. Baggett currently works as operator for the Hamilton Water District, a position he has held for roughly three years. That district serves a population of about 4,300 people, according to the Mississippi Department of Health.
Baggett said Hamilton has about 1,400 water customers.
"Caledonia has a good system," Baggett said Tuesday evening. "I don't have any plans to come in and change a lot."
Lawrence said Baggett holds a water operator license, a mandatory requirement for the superintendent position since the passage of the Municipal and Domestic Water and Wastewater System Operator's Certification Act in 1987.
"He's qualified," Lawrence said. "He is familiar with our system and how we do certain things. It is a good fit."
Baggett, 35, is a lifelong resident of Lowndes and Monroe counties. He lives in Hamilton now but used to live in Caledonia. He is married and has three children.
Coleman became superintendent of Caledonia's water department -- which has four employees and serves roughly 2,000 customers -- in the summer of 2001. Since then the number of customers the town supplies water to has grown about 20 percent. Coleman said he is proud of his accomplishments with the department but credited the people he has worked with.
Coleman's last day with the department is Jan. 9 -- his 64th birthday. He is retiring, he said, to "do some of the other things I want to while I still have my health."
He will continue to call Caledonia home.
Between Nov. 18 -- Baggett's first day -- and Coleman's retirement, Coleman said he will be there to answer any questions Baggett may have to help make a smooth transition.
In other news pertaining to Caledonia water, the town's rates are officially going up.
Lawrence said the next time customers receive their bills -- in about three weeks -- the rate change will be in place. Last month, Brandon Presley, the public service commissioner for Mississippi's northern district, signed an order allowed for the change. A 14-day period in which objections could be made has since passed with no objections.
Under the new rate, customers who draw water from the town will pay $7.25 per month for each 1,000 gallons of water used. The minimum fee will be $7.25 regardless of how much water is used up to 1,000 gallons. Fees for increments above 1,000 gallons are prorated.
The average family of four uses roughly 5,500 gallons of water each month, according to Coleman. Under the new rates, that average monthly bill would increase from $26 to $40.
The rate change was made to help pay for the $3.2 million water system upgrade the town undertook in 2009. The state health department required the town to upgrade its system.
William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.