Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo hopes there will be new discussion about combining Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) with the Atlantic City water authority, according to a letter he sent on Wednesday. “The time is now to ensure that Atlantic City’s prestigious water company stays in public hands,” wrote Mazzeo in the letter addressed to the two top executives at the authorities and lawyer Jeff Chiesa, who is charged with overseeing the state takeover of Atlantic City. The ACUA and the Atlantic City Municipal Utilities Authority (ACMUA) last year held talks about working together to help the city water authority generate more income, which would help bolster the city’s own financial position. “I’m writing today in the hopes that this letter will help renew the conversation in an effort to bring together two well-run utilities authorities for the sake of the public good,” Mazzeo wrote. The fate of Atlantic City’s water authority has been uncertain since the precarious position of the city’s finances put pressure on officials to sell or lease it.
In May last year Atlantic City’s water authority hired advisory firm Acacia Financial Group to craft a concession agreement that would help the authority both retain its independence and stave off a state takeover of the city. Acacia Financial helped draft two 100-page-plus documents chock-full of inside information and financial details but just a few months later it abruptly ended its $20,000 contract with the water authority because it had accepted another contract – with the New Jersey department that held state-takeover powers. New Jersey, now tasked with plucking Atlantic City from its financial death spiral, is sitting on a detailed plan that would help potential buyers put a price on one of the casino resort’s few remaining assets: its water authority. What’s more, the plan calculates the future water-rate rises that might be possible for the authority. “Their analysis sets forth what a combined rate structure could be, given a concession model,” said Bruce Ward, executive director of the Atlantic City Municipal Utilities Authority said in an interview last month.