Business administrator Charles Thomas, said he will write to the state to save the Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) after the state ordered the city to abolish the agency in a new memorandum of understanding.
“This has been an independent authority since its creation and I do intend to present a plan by the date said, identifying why it should remain a separate utility,” said Thomas on Tuesday evening.
Thomas said if adjustments must be made he would provide the council “greater oversight” over the authority. “That’s an area we would like to explore further,” said Thomas.
The business administrator said maybe giving the council more oversight over the actions of the authority will satisfy the state’s demands outlined in a new memorandum of understanding, conditions that come attached with state aid.
The memo reads, “The Municipality’s MUA appears to the Division to be an unneeded layer of government that addresses functions that could be undertaken by the City without the additional expenses associated with that government authority.”
The state Department of Community Affairs wants the city to submit a dissolution plan or an explanation why the authority is not being dissolved, according to the memorandum. The city has until May 1st, 2014 to submit a plan or an explanation with the department; if neither is submitted to the state by that date, reads the memorandum, the state will dissolve the authority on its own.
In recent years, the authority has been in hot waters over paying for plane tickets for an India excursion taken by Jeffery Jones, city’s mayor, and Erik Lowe, chairman of the authority. The authority approved $4,156 for the mayor’s and chairman’s plane tickets; prior to that, the authority channeled $5,000 for a summer children’s program held at the St. Luke’s Baptist Church – a church that was connected to more than one authority official.
Lowe, whose term expired in January, remains at the helm of the authority as a holdover.