Fayetteville City Council, Public Works Commission Head into Mediation
Wednesday, February, 18, 2015
A dispute over the city council’s authority over the Public Works Commission (PWC) has headed into closed-door mediation sessions in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The dispute centers on whether the PWC is an independent utility or if it falls under the jurisdiction and control of the city council.
Under the 1905 legislation creating the PWC, the utility was granted power over all aspects of the utilities it provides, including setting rates. However, the council has described the language of the PWC charter as ‘antiquated’ and has announced its determination to update it and bring the PWC more firmly under the umbrella of the council’s authority.
The PWC filed a lawsuit in October, 2014 claiming that the Fayetteville City Council was overreaching its authority in asserting full control over the PWC’s $350 million budget. In response, the council filed documents claiming the PWC could not sue – or be sued – because it was not an independent entity but rather an offshoot of the council itself. After several months of impasse, both sides voluntarily agreed to attempt a mediation.
However, despite describing ‘progress’ at the closed door mediation, some council members plan to go forward with revised charter language for the PWC that would clarify that the council has full discretion to override the PWC when it comes to the utility’s budget and rates. Legislation must be submitted by March 18 to be considered by the council, so any negotiations with the PWC would have to be concluded by then to forestall any changes to the charter.