Last month the City’s Water Plant Manager, Steve Hardesty, provided City Council with a very informative and insightful presentation on the state of the operations at the City Water Plant. In the course of an hour Steve walked through a long list of operational challenges that he and his staff have wrestled with and in each case they solved the problems and saved the City money. Unfortunately they don’t control the cost of electricity and the chemicals that they use in the water purification process and that’s what’s putting a lot of pressure on City water rates.
The City is in the process of conducting a utility rate study to evaluate the City’s rates in order to come up with a rate stabilization plan that ensures the City has safe drinking water that is also affordable.
By their nature, utility systems rely on expensive treatment equipment that gets used 24/7, 365 days a year. That’s a lot of wear and tear, and even with our aggressive maintenance programs we routinely face significant replacement and repair costs which are paid for out of the funds generated by the water rates.
The costs for that equipment and the power to run it keeps climbing higher leaving the City staff fewer and fewer options or resources to respond with. All of that is a long way of saying no one on City staff wants to raise rates but more than that no one wants to produce bad water — which means we (as a community) have got to determine what we are willing to pay to ensure our water quality remains excellent — and that’s the mission of the rate study.
To help to begin to understand the dynamics of water plant operations I thought I’d share Steve’s powerpoint that he provided to City Council. Unfortunately I don’t have a tape recorded version of Steve’s narrative because he did an excellent job at explaining complex, technical matters in plain english that everyone could understand. However, Steve did provide his notes in the power point and while they are a bit cryptic you can read them by scrolling over the upper left corner of each slide.
After Steve’s presentation I received a note from Councilman Ferrara that is a great testament to the quality of Steve’s work: