PEER Examines Gas District

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The Mississippi Legislature's Performance, Evaluation and Expenditure Review Committee, or PEER, criticized a number of aspects of the Chickasawhay Natural Gas District's operation. It serves Quitman, Shubuta and Waynesboro.

CNGD management also issued a report of its own, disputing many of PEER's claims.

Among PEER's allegations: "The CNGD's residential and commercial rates are high in comparison to those charged by two municipal natural gas districts and one privately held natural gas utility company."

In response, Waynesboro Mayor Marshall Wood, CNGD's chairman of the board, listed numerous districts against which, he said, its rates were highly favorable and questioned why PEER used "a select group of facilities" with which CNGD did not compare favorably.

Other members of the board include Mayor Tommy Blackburn of Quitman and Mayor Clyde Brown of Shubuta.

In answer to a PEER claim that Chickasawhay was not operated at a maximum level of efficiency, Wood said its net worth is now close to double what it was 12 years ago.

PEER charged the district gives extra compensation to the mayors of the three cities.

CNGD's response was that such compensation is paid in compliance with state law.

The legislative investigative committee also contends the board has distributed over $3.5 million to Quitman, Shubuta and Waynesboro since 1986, claiming these contributions were not authorized by law.

Chickasawhay answered that state law allows such distribution as utility franchise fees. I

In his summation reply to PEER, Wood wrote that many of its assertions were inaccurate and "may be made by personnel who are not qualified to make such assertions."

Wood invited Max Arinder, executive director of PEER to come to Chickasawhay's offices and discuss whatever concerns PEER may have with the gas district's operation. Wood said as of Tuesday, there has been no response.