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City takes over wastewater treatment plant
BARSTOW • City staff will resume operations of the its wastewater treatment plant after the contract with current operators expires the end of the month.
Operations of the publically-owned wastewater facility have been privatized since 1994. The current operators, United Water, have been contracted since 2003.
After reviewing the cost of renewing the contract, searching for new contracts or managing the operation in house, city staff recommended to the City Council allowing the city take over the facility. Assistant to the City Manager Oliver Chi said staff spent months assessing the cost of managing the facility versus finding another contract and estimated taking over the facility would save $600,000 annually.
Chi said the plant’s five employees would be made a conditional employment offer and will have to go through a hiring process for permanent positions. During a tour of the facility Chief Plant Operator Kody Tompkins said he and the facility’s other four employees were excited to work with the city when it takes over Feb. 1.
Built in the 1960s, much of the infrastructure is dated and often needs repairs. Per the contract any repair costing more than $5,000 was to be paid for by the city. As a result many repairs were not made until the machinery failed, costing the city more over all, Chi explained. He said he doesn’t blame United Water for their pattern of “failure repairs” because doing smaller, preventative repairs would cost them.
Preventative maintenance and repairs is one way the city hopes to save money in the long run.
All who spoke during the meeting approved of the city’s takeover of the plant, except United Water representative Mike Perales who said his company has had a good relationship with Barstow and didn’t want to see it end. Barstow resident Carmen Hernandez said she’s believes it will be good for the Barstow community to save money.
Though he said he approved of the idea of taking over the plant, Mayor Joe Gomez voted against the action. The vote was 4-1 with Gomez the only dissenter. He motioned to extend the contract with United Water for 90 days and start a bidding process to see what other operators would actually offer, but that motion died.
“I just wanted to have actual facts instead of projected figures,” Gomez said. “I think if we’d have had a couple of study sessions before we made this decision I think we would have been able to make a informed decision.”
If the city can reduce costs to the wastewater treatment facility, the sewer rates can be reevaluated and possibly lowered, Chi said.
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