Why was an interim outside manager appointed to manage the Jackson water system?
The water system has suffered from resource shortages that have resulted in the lack of staff with utility management experience and the applicable technical expertise. With the water system in crisis, there was not time to recruit such individuals. An interim outside manager will be able to move more quickly to bring such resources to Jackson to assist in a rapid restoration of the system. The interim manager concept was a requirement of a Stipulated Order, negotiated between US EPA, the US Department of Justice, and the City of Jackson.
Who is the interim manager?
The Federal District Court (Judge Wingate) has appointed Ted Henifin to be the interim manager. As a Senior Fellow with the US Water Alliance, Ted has worked with the city since mid-September providing advice and identifying resources to assist in the water crisis recovery. In this advisor role, Ted has become familiar with the water system and Jackson’s unique challenges.
Who pays the interim manager?
The Stipulated Order requires the interim manager’s entire budget to be paid from sources other than Jackson ratepayers. EPA is providing the funding in the form of special grants.
What are the duties of the interim manager?
The duties outlined in the Stipulated Order focus largely on a executing a list of priority projects while ensuring safe drinking water is available at all times to all people in Jackson. Additionally, the interim manager is to focus on the water billing system and begin a process that gets that back on track after years of challenges, largely set in motion with a failed contract seven years ago.
Who does the interim manager answer to?
The interim manager is an officer of the court and answers to Judge Wingate.
How long will the interim manager be in place?
The goal is to have an interim manager for as short a time as is required to stabilize the system and put the Jackson Water System on a sustainable path forward. EPA and DOJ have set a one-year target but ultimately Judge Wingate will determine when the interim manager is no longer required.
Can the interim manager raise water rates?
The Stipulated Order does include a process for the interim manager to work with the city should additional funding be required. That process includes seeking rate increases as required. There are also a number of checks and balances in the Stipulated Order that limit rate increases and borrowing to levels that can be sustained by Jackson based on affordability (compliance with a long-term financial plan to be developed by the interim manager).