published Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Chattanooga forming its own wastewater authority

by Cliff Hightower
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield
Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Mayor Ron Littlefield said Wednesday he plans on creating a quasi-governmental wastewater authority that would bring together the city's wastewater and stormwater divisions.

"We're beginning small," Littlefield said.

The authority would operate under its own budget, with an executive director and a board to set policy.

He said creating the authority would allow other entities, such as the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Authority, to join at a later date.

"I know they have to go through a process," he said. "It's a process that will go on well beyond my term."

The first step for creating the authority, which will be modeled after EPB, is to hold a public hearing. That will happen Dec. 11. Then the City Council must pass on two readings a motion establishing the authority, which is being called the Cleanwater Alliance.

Ed Watt, chairman of the WWTA, said Tuesday he had not heard anything about the creation of any type of city water authority, which the city is billing as "regional."

"I'm not aware of what you're talking about," he said. "I probably should be."

Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said setting up the autonomous body would streamline the two divisions and help take one of the most complicated and expensive operations out of government hands.

"I think it would run more efficiently," she said. "EPB works so well."

Another selling point for her is the potential for growth if Hamilton County WWTA or other water providers want to join.

Littlefield said the authority would cost no taxpayer money. The two bodies already operate under stormwater and wastewater fees, which pays for employee salaries and capital projects.

He said it makes sense for WWTA to join. He said the WWTA is strapped under several responsibilities, such as fixing sewer lines to people's homes, that the city is not.

"We can set up a new authority and we don't have that responsibility," he said.

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