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Henifin in favor of Jackson water takeover bill, calling it ‘a great foundation’

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and interim third-party water manager Ted Henefin (Photo by SuperTalk Mississippi News)

Jackson’s interim third-party water manager, Ted Henifin, announced Friday that he is supporting a bill to establish future governance for the capital city’s water system once he’s finished with his work.

Senate Bill 2628, or The Mississippi Capitol Region Utility Act, would create an authority with nine members to oversee Jackson’s water and wastewater services. The members, who would have to meet specific requirements to be considered, would be appointed by the governor (5) and the lieutenant governor (4).

While Henifin said there are still some amendments to be made, he believes this year’s bill would be a good foundation for a water system that has struggled for decades but has seen improvement under his tenure.

“After reviewing SB 2628, I believe this is a great foundation. It appears that many of the comments I provided during the last session regarding the bill introduced in 2023 were taken to heart and this bill now includes many of the suggestions I made at the time,” Henifin said, per the release from JXN Water. “The bill identifies a need for appropriations, but I recommend defining a specific dollar figure to fund start-up costs for the authority to be included in the FY 2025 state budget.”

Henifin provided the following list of elements within SB 2628 that he supports:

  • All federal funds received to date are to be spent according to the direction of the interim third-party manager (ITPM) and the court.
  • Authority assumes ownership and operations and maintenance upon the date of termination of the order or earlier as ordered by the court.
  • Authority can issue bonds.
  • Authority develops own procedures and procurements less than $1 million.
  • Authority to consult with the court in appointing a president (paid for by the state) and to serve as ITPM’s deputy in the transition.
  • Authorizes the Mississippi SRF program to loan funds at zero percent with a 40-year term to make such purchase.
  • Board serves without salary.
  • Employees of the authority serve at will and pleasure of the president who sets compensation and benefits.
  • Nine-member board from very specific constituencies – five appointed by the governor and four by the lieutenant governor.
  • Set rates subject to Public Service Commission (PSC) review – PSC shall defer to the authority’s determination of what rates are just and reasonable absent a showing of manifest error.
  • State provides surety for short-term borrowing through 2029.
  • The bill authorizes the authority to purchase the water and sewer assets at fair market value.

Last week, SB 2628 passed out of committee and awaits to be taken up on the Senate floor. Henifin and lawmakers are expected to meet this week to discuss specific startup costs and other changes he thinks might need to be made.

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