Compromise reached on the length of MWA terms

ATLANTA — A compromise emerged Wednesday to cut Macon Water Authority terms to four years instead of the two years suggested by state Sen. Robert Brown.

Water authority members visiting the Capitol after learning of Brown’s proposal said they would agree to that. They also said they’d consider a change Brown suggested regarding the way apartment complexes are charged for water.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said late Wednesday evening that the term change was pretty much a done deal: They will transition to four years starting in 2012. Brown, D-Macon, said that’s fine for now, but he’ll be looking for more reforms soon.

“I’m going to get, eventually, where I want to be,” Brown said.

That includes adding another member to the authority’s controlling board and allowing the mayor of Macon to appoint two members instead of the city’s current one.

That would shift power toward the mayor and the city, which essentially created the authority by ceding its water system infrastructure to the new authority in the early 1970s.

Brown agreed to drop the added authority seat, which he sprung on city and county leaders this week, after it became clear that the change wouldn’t pass muster with local legislators in the House of Representatives.

Authority Executive Director Tony Rojas said the board probably will pass a resolution supporting the change to four-year terms today during its regular meeting.

Rojas also said the authority will take another look at its policy for charging apartment complexes for water. Currently, complexes have a minimum charge, which is based on an 80 percent occupancy rate, Rojas said.

That policy is sometimes misunderstood and might change, though the total amount of revenue the authority gets from apartment complex business likely won’t, he said.

It may take some time, “but we’re going to find a way to restructure that rate,” Rojas said.

Martin Bell, of Bell Properties, chortled at that. Bell pushed Brown to file his legislation changing the authority and said Wednesday he favored every proposal except adding a new representative for the city.

“A promise to look at (the apartment complex issue) is nonsense,” Bell said. “We’ve been trying to get that apartment tax eliminated ever since they proposed it.

“We want to pay for the water we use,” he said.

Brown’s legislation took other legislators, the authority, county commissioners and city leaders by surprise, and Peake called it “a shot across the bow from Sen. Brown to the Macon Water Authority.”

“I think he got their attention,” Peake said.

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 361-2702.