The Maumelle City Council met Monday night for a workshop on Maumelle Water Management.
The meeting was spirited and stretched on for nearly two hours. In the end, the one thing decided was that the meeting would adjourn.
That passed by a unanimous vote of the Council.
Two other motions, the first requesting that Maumelle Water Management have a reasonable amount of time to address the Council’s concerns, failed.
The next motion was to have an Alderman present at the monthly meetings of Maumelle Water Management and report back to the Council.
It was noted that the Council already had two liaisons, former alderman and Maumelle Water Management Advisory Board member*** Doug Ladner and Fire Chief George Glenn, attending the meetings and also presenting reports to the Council.
That motion also failed.
The Council seemed to be fairly split on what to do with Maumelle Water Management, an independent provider of the city’s water.
Formed as a Municipal Suburban Improvement District, the water utility, by state law, is above the back and forth of city politics.
When the workshop was proposed for Monday night, the commissioners of Maumelle Water Management declined to participate in the meeting. The utility’s general manager, Barry Heller, was present though and did speak in public comments.
The lack of participation angered some members of the Council, most notably Alderman Steve Mosley, who described himself in the meeting as “the hardliner” and called for a “non-voluntary takeover of Maumelle Water Management.”
That morphed into a “hostile takeover” by Alderman Preston Lewis, who later clarified his comments in the meeting to say that “hostile” was a business term to describe an involuntary takeover.”
Lewis added that, “all roads, to me, lead to state capital.”
Mayor Mike Watson told the Council any legislative solution wouldn’t happen to 2015.
City Attorney JaNan Davis told the Council and “involuntary” or “hostile” takeover would be expensive and “significant legal fees” would be involved with that.
She described that as one of three options available to the Council.
The others being to have members of the improvement district vote to change the makeup of the commission or form a public utility corporation.
She said she wasn’t aware of any municipality in Arkansas that had been involved in an involuntary takeover of utility provided by an improvement district.
“I don’t know how we got to hostile takeover,” said Alderman Jan Hogue. “I don’t want to be part of it.”
Watson also noted that any lawsuit would be, in effect, the people of Maumelle suing the people of Maumelle, as the water utility serves and is paid for by the people of they city.
As talk of takeovers subsided, the shift to a legislative solution happened.
Watson said that in 2011 then state Rep. Ed Garner sponsored a bill, that eventually passed, that would have allowed cities to add commission members to improvement district boards.
Maumelle Water Management filed a lawsuit to prevent that and the suit was successful.
State Rep. Mark Lowery, who lives in Maumelle, was at the meeting and told the Council he’d could take the matter to a House committee. He said the state legislature had “good lawyers” and that it would be free.
Free being the best of all four-letter words or as Alderman Marc Kelley said, “I’m for nothing that costs the citizens.”
The matter is likely to come up at the next regular meeting of the City Council on Monday and will likely be discussed for the rest of the summer.
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***This article has been changed from its orginal version because of an incorrect title. Click here to view the correction notice.