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Jackson needs federal funds to cover repairs, appointee says

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The manager appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice to oversee reforms to the beleaguered water system in Mississippi’s capital city says he won’t have enough money to cover expenses until more federal funds arrive.

Ted Henifin was appointed in November after the Justice Department won a federal judge’s approval to carry out a rare intervention to fix Jackson’s water system, which partially failed in August. For days, people waited in lines for water to drink, bathe, cook and flush toilets in the majority-Black city of about 150,000.

Henifin, who has begun to implement a range of reforms, said he is still waiting for hundreds of millions of dollars in funds the federal government set aside for Jackson’s water infrastructure. Meanwhile, the city is waiting to pay companies it has done business with for water system improvements. Current monthly transfers are no longer enough to cover operations, maintenance and repairs, Henifin says.

“We’re… hoping that we get our grant money soon so we can pay them,” Henifin told WLBT-TV. “I don’t want to get into the same situation that Jackson has been known for, (being) very slow or not paying at all.”

Henifin expects the money to arrive in the coming days based on conversations he has had with federal officials, the news station reported Monday. The federal government awarded Jackson about $800 million for water projects.

In an April 21 federal court filing, JXN Water, the company formed by Henifin to oversee the city’s water department, requested an over $1 million budget increase to pay for new billing software, community outreach staffing and legal support.

Henifin has said he hopes to wrap up his work as interim manager in one year or less. The federal order under which he was appointed sets 12 months for Henifin to implement 13 projects for improving the system’s near-term stability.

A federal judge will consider Henifin’s new budget requests at a hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

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Cover Photo: Ted Henifin, left, the City of Jackson water system third-party administrator, addresses media questions during a news conference at City Hall as Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba listens on Dec. 5, 2022, in Jackson, Miss. Henifin, the manager appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice to oversee reforms to the beleaguered water system in Mississippi’s capital city, says he won’t have enough money to cover expenses until more federal funds arrive. (Barbara Gauntt/The Clarion-Ledger via AP, File)

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