Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed last week nominated Jo Ann Macrina to be the new commissioner of the Department of Watershed Management.

Macrina has 25 years of civil engineering and public management expertise. She currently serves as the deputy director of the Watershed Protection Division for DeKalb County’s Department of Watershed Management.

Macrina “has had a distinguished career and will help the Department of Watershed Management meet its goals,” Reed said.

Her experience includes fiscal management and budgeting, strategic planning, and program development and planning. Prior to her work with DeKalb County, she was deputy director of transportation for the city of Roswell.

The Atlanta City Council must confirm her nomination.

The department Macrina will oversee provides drinking water and wastewater services and currently is working to modernize and overhaul the city’s water infrastructure, a $4 billion project largely supported by bond financing.

In a related matter last week, Standard & Poor’s revised its outlook to stable from negative and affirmed its A rating on Atlanta’s water and sewer revenue bonds.

“The outlook revision reflects what we consider to be improvement regarding the immediate risks associated with the system, although longer-term risks remain,” the agency said.

The A rating reflects adequate financial operations, debt service coverage, and liquidity position as well as the passage of multi-year rate increases to meet increased debt-service costs, and voter approval of a municipal options sales tax to support operations.

Some offsetting credit factors include continued declines in consumption over the past three years, high rates that are projected to continue to rise based on approved rate hikes, a substantial consent-order-driven capital improvement plan, uncertainty related to a federal court ruling that decreases in how much water Atlanta can withdraw from its main source, and the need to extend consent-order deadlines.

Additionally, Standard & Poor’s said the system’s debt profile includes an “ineffective hedge with a $123 million termination value” and moderately high leverage that is expected to increase based on the system’s slow and back-loaded amortization and additional debt needs.

“While we still consider there to be pressures associated with long-term capital needs, high rates, raw water supply, and exposure to derivatives, these are not likely to have an impact on the system’s finances in the short term,” analysts wrote.

“While the system has exposure to a sizable termination payment should it be downgraded to BBB-plus or below, we consider this a contingent liability that is not currently pressuring the system but could in the future.”

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