published Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Moccasin Bend Clean Water Authority stalls


by Cliff Hightower

The Moccasin Bend Clean Water Authority is in limbo.

Chattanooga City Attorney Mike McMahan said Wednesday that none of the money authorized to hire an attorney to set up the new authority has been spent.

"Nothing is happening," McMahan said. "No one is spending that $250,000."

Former Mayor Ron Littlefield, and the previous City Council, established the authority in December as a foundation for a larger regional authority for sewer, stormwater and, at some point perhaps, water.

Mayor Andy Berke's administration has been quiet on the issue.

Chief Operating Officer Andrew Kean told council members Tuesday night that sewer services would fall under the department of public works -- not the Moccasin Bend Clean Water Authority.

But later, he downplayed any meaning behind the department structure.

"Everything is in a review process," he said.

Bruce Case, chairman of the board for the authority, did not return multiple calls for comment.

Don Moon, an authority board member, said he has not heard anything about the future of the authority. The board has held three meetings so far.

"I've had no feedback whatsoever," he said.

Councilman Chip Henderson said he is concerned the authority would have control of the city's sewer and stormwater fees but would not be managed by elected individuals. He also questioned what other utilities would join the authority.

"We were told other entities would like to join, but we weren't told who," he said.

Councilman Larry Grohn said the authority needs to be evaluated after Berke sets up his administration and completes a budget. There is no hurry to get the authority started, he said.

"I think it's something we need to hold on," he said. "It's something the former mayor rushed through."

McMahan said Wednesday that dismantling the authority is simple. If the administration chooses not to propose any spending for the authority, then the authority cannot operate, he said.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/cliff.hightower.

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