By Steve Swogetinsky

Kemper Messenger

Portions of the eastern half of Kemper County may have natural gas service within a couple of years.

The Kemper County board of supervisors created the Kemper County Natural Gas District earlier this year. This has been years in the making and was done on the authority of Senate Bill 2981 which was shepherded into law by state Sen. Sampson Jackson and others in 2014.

Currently, there is no natural gas service at East Mississippi Community College, the town of Scooba and the Highway 45 corridor. Any gas customers in those areas are served by propane tanks.

The plan is to connect to the existing natural gas service at the Tennessee Valley Authority gas turbine facility on Highway 16 east of DeKalb. Eight miles of gas line will be installed along the existing East Mississippi Power Association right of way on the north side of Highway 16.

When complete, not only will residents and business have new gas service but this will make the area more attractive for economic development.

Supervisors established an interim board of commissioners to oversee the gas district. Each supervisor and East Mississippi Community College were allowed to appoint one commissioner. The appointees are as follows: James Granger Sr., William “Bill” W. Clay; Michael Dudley, Robert “Bobby” McDade, Dwight D. Jackson and Mickey E. Stokes.

Kemper County supervisors and members of the Kemper County Economic Development Authority were in Washington D.C. earlier this month, seeking federal funds for the project. They visited with the Appalachian Regional Commission, the USDA and members of  Mississippi’s congressional delegation.

“In 2014, we got the local and private bill to create the Natural Gas district and operate it through the county,” said Craig Hitt, executive director of the Kemper County EDA.  “There was a lot of work to be done before the district could be established.

“Now we have a natural  gas district. We went to Washington to share that information with our delegation and ask for support in funding and in any other way. We had very positive feedback the Appalachian Regional Commission and the USDA. We have a follow-up meeting with the state USDA leadership on March 28.

“Our time line is to continue to do due diligence for the rest of this year. There is work that needs to be done before we actually put it out for bids.”

It is hoped that project will be ready to be put up for bids at the first of the year and have a contractor in place by the end of the first quarter of 2020. It is hoped the gas line will be in place by the end of 2020.