published Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Mayor set to tackle issues head on

by Cliff Hightower
Audio clip

Audio: Ron Littlefield meets with Times Free Press editorial board

Mayor Ron Littlefield said Tuesday he did not see any type of arrangement that would keep Tennessee-American Water Co. as an independent provider if a regional water and sewer authority is created.

“I think their future is to eventually sell,” Mr. Littlefield said, speaking to the editorial board of the Times Free Press.

One of Mr. Littlefield’s announced goals for his second and final term is combining the area’s various water and sewer authorities into one.

Outlining his agenda Tuesday, he said he doubted whether a collection of small utility groups spread around Hamilton County could handle the type of growth expected in the Chattanooga area.

When it comes to Tennessee-American, Mr. Littlefield said, most of the company’s large customers, such as Wheland Foundry, are gone, and the utility continues to raise water prices on customers to make up for the lost revenue.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Patrick Smith Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield speaks to the Times Free Press editorial board during a meeting on Tuesday. Mayor Littlefield addressed questions regarding combining city and county services, as well as annexing new territory.

John Watson, president of Tennessee-American, emphasized the water company already is a regional player and is not for sale.

“We’ve been providing water service to Chattanooga for almost 140 years, and we look forward to doing that for another 140 years,” he said.

Mr. Littlefield said he thinks a regional sewer and water authority could be achieved since the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant already serves as a hub for local sewer systems.

As members shift off the various water system boards, they could be replaced by people more friendly toward consolidation, he said.

Eventually, a regional authority should happen so growth coming from the Volkswagen plant now being built at Enterprise South industrial park is not impeded, he said.

“The only way to do that is to have an economy of scale,” he said. “A larger system.”

Along with the water and sewer authority, Mr. Littlefield also has said he wants to tackle annexation, revitalize the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library and examine consolidation of some city and county services.

He said he hopes to inspire young professionals in Chattanooga to rally around his causes and be the standard bearers.

A first hurdle could be a new, inexperienced City Council that he sees as being proactive in the coming years. He said he has begun meeting with council members one on one to talk about his goals, acknowledging that they would have to “buy into” his agenda.

“We have a City Council receptive to new ideas,” he said.

Council Chairman Jack Benson said Tuesday that council members seem receptive to hearing what the mayor brought to the table with his agenda items. But he said there is some anxiety.

“They want the justification for all of it, but there’s no indication that the justification isn’t there,” he said.

For the library, Mr. Littlefield said he could envision a regional library system, trying to see how some libraries within the county’s municipalities could be involved. But he said there has always been a tug-of-war between the city and the county on who pays what for jointly funded programs.

The library is funded by the city-county sales tax agreement, which is up for renegotiation in two years. The issue will be addressed then, Mr. Littlefield said.

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JasonMcG said...

The only reason for creating a regional water and sewer authority is to add another fee for citizens to pay on their water bill and to resurrect John Kinsey's failed attempt at taking over the water company.

The idea that the VW plant would be impeded by not having a regional water and sewer authority is ludicrous at best. Saturn had no trouble building it's plant up in Spring Hill TN without one.

For business owners thinking of relocating to this area, what kind of message does it send to them to see local government take over a private company that has served this area for so long? Not a good one, that is for certain.

I like that there are new city council members that are "inexperienced", it means they haven't been tainted by the good ole boy system here which has been so full of corruption, with all the arrest and convictions of public officials around here. The mayor calls them inexperienced, but I see that as fresh new ideas, independent thinkers and council members that will listen to their constituents instead of their cronies, and do what is best for the voters and not the politicians.

May 2, 2009 at 8:20 a.m.
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