Skip to main content

Public Partnerships Meeting Competition Head-On Or Think Private and Play With the Big Dogs

Buy Article:

$9.50 plus tax (Refund Policy)

Or sign up for a free trial

The trend in public utility management over the last decade is the implementation of cost saving and efficient operational strategies to become more competitive with private utilities. The Butler County Department of Environmental Services (BCDES) takes “thinking private” very seriously. In their 1999 Business Plan, one strategic goal was “to look for opportunities to enhance revenues.” Regionalization of public utilities, while even going beyond a water shed approach, is one way utilities can partner to accomplish BCDES goals and/or to realize cost savings. When a local county government put out a Request For Bid regarding contract operations of the water and wastewater systems, BCDES saw this as just such an opportunity. BCDES put together a proposal to operate Clermont County's 10 wastewater facilities, 91 lift stations, and 600 miles of collection sewers. “Counties in Partnership” was the title of the BCDES proposal and when the bids were opened on November 17, 1999, BCDES' bid was the lowest cost for the wastewater operations. Clermont County subsequently chose a private provider who also had a design-build-operate project in the county, but BCDES is a still winner! Public sector employees put together a contract operations cost that competed with the best in the business. This process broke new ground, going far beyond the “managed competition” that has been done by several public agencies across the country. BCDES is also a winner because the process itself was a learning experience that has already enabled them to implement even more far reaching strategies to lower O&M costs within the Butler County organization.

With labor being the biggest, single item in a utilities budget, the number of employees needed to operate the system is a very important decision. Higher performance expectations and greater workforce flexibility are key ingredients to lower labor costs. While attrition will hopefully be the long-range method of staff reduction, BCDES is not simply waiting. BCDES Labor/Management Team is working towards moving staff from areas of excess capacity to areas of need. Excess labor capacity is also being used to construct capital improvements, thereby saving contractor markups. Breaking down work silos is the key to efficient staff utilization. Changing the oil in a truck in the morning and fixing a water main break in the afternoon is typical in a work day at BCDES. Each employee has a core competency, but moving outside of that to assist in an area of need is the best way to serve the customers. Measuring performance is the main ingredient.

Since the bid submittal, BCDES has accomplished the following staff utilization analyses:

Benchmarked laboratory services against a private provider and found 2 FTE's in excess.

Benchmarked fleet maintenance against a private provider and found 1.4 FTE's in excess.

Using the Clermont County bid as a starting point, found 4 excess FTE's in wastewater operations.

Eliminated two FTE's in clerical field services positions.

Eliminated 2 FTE's in Customer Service.

In each of these cases, the particular skill set of each of these employees was utilized to determine the best fit within areas of need. This utilization strategy has allowed BCDES to forego hiring additional staff for a system that has experienced a 6% annual growth rate (approximately 1300 new connections) since 1990. We have also reduced the total cost per water main break by 40%.
No Reference information available - sign in for access.
No Citation information available - sign in for access.
No Supplementary Data.
No Article Media
No Metrics

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-01-01

More about this publication?
  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

    A subscription to the Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation includes access to most papers presented at the annual WEF Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC) and other conferences held since 2000. Subscription access begins 12 months after the event and is valid for 12 months from month of purchase. A subscription to the Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is included in Water Environment Federation (WEF) membership.

    WEF Members: Sign in (right panel) with your IngentaConnect user name and password to receive complimentary access. Access begins 12 months after the conference or event
  • Subscribe to this Title
  • Membership Information
  • About WEF Proceedings
  • WEFTEC Conference Information
  • Learn about the many other WEF member benefits and join today
  • Ingenta Connect is not responsible for the content or availability of external websites
  • Access Key
  • Free content
  • Partial Free content
  • New content
  • Open access content
  • Partial Open access content
  • Subscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed content
  • Free trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
Ingenta Connect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more