The city council on Tuesday evening took a preliminary vote to dissolve the Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) folding all its functions into the city’s public works department.
Council members approved a first reading ordinance to dissolve the authority and approved a resolution to send documents to the state’s Local Finance Board to get the final nod to end the existence of an agency that has been embroiled in controversies over the last few years.
In 2013, the authority approved $4,156 to fund the purchase of two plane tickets for Erik Lowe, chairman of the agency, and Jeffery Jones, city’s then mayor, for an excursion to southwest India.
Prior to the trip, in 2011, the agency which was established in June 29th, 1981 funneled roughly $5,000 to a politically connected local church whose congregants were on the agency’s board.
A year later, the state ordered the city through its memorandum of understanding, to dissolve the agency which it saw as an “unneeded layer of government” whose function can easily be taken over by the city.
As a result of the controversial trip, council members also did not approve a new five-year term of office for Lowe earlier in the year.
Council members demanded a report of the trip. After a trip report was produced, the Jones’ administration sought to preserve the agency. However, once Jose “Joey” Torres came in, the new mayor began to implement the state’s order to abolish the agency.
The city will take ownership over properties owned by the agency including the Overlook Park and the Mary Ellen Kramer Park located around the Great Falls National Park. The city will also take ownership over the hydroelectric plant that is located at the foot of the falls, according to city officials.
The city must obtain approval from the finance board and run the ordinance through a second reading before dissolving the agency.