Two of Chattanooga's three mayoral candidates lashed out Monday against Mayor Ron Littlefield's plans to consolidate the sewer and water quality departments into a separate, standalone authority.
Businessman and former Parks and Recreation Director Rob Healy said he wants to see more details on who would comprise the authority's board and how long their terms would last. He also said he is leery about a separate authority having control of rates without City Council approval.
"I think that's a very dangerous step to take," he said.
Former city employee Guy Satterfield echoed Healy's sentiments and said the organization could end up a money loser.
"I think it's just something Littlefield wants to do just to say, 'I created something,'" Satterfield said.
Former state Sen. Andy Berke took a more measured approach.
"While I have serious reservations about any attempt to take over a private entity, I will work with the county and other interested stakeholders to ensure that utilities serve our city cost effectively," Berke said in a prepared statement.
The comments come just days before the city holds a public hearing about forming a startup regional wastewater and water authority. The city plans to meld the city's water quality and sewer division together to create the authority.
Littlefield has said in past weeks he hopes entities such as the Hamilton County Wastewater Authority and water companies like Eastside Utility District would want to join the authority in the future. But last week spokesmen with Eastside Utility District and Tennessee American Water, a privately owned business, said they had no interest in the authority.
And Littlefield said the person who takes his job would be mostly responsible for making any expansion happen.
Healy said he would rather see the authority talked about and created after the March 2013 election when a new mayor and City Council will be on board. He said he can't see why Littlefield is pushing the matter now.
"There doesn't seem to be much support in this," he said.
Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/cliff.hightower.