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LOW COST VS. QUALITY SERVICE: PERFORMANCE EVALUATIONS AND STAKEHOLDER INPUT HELP RALEIGH FIND THE RIGHT BALANCE FOR SUSTAINABLE UTILITY FUNDING

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Abstract:

Finding the right approach to providing high quality utility service at an affordable cost is a challenge faced by utility managers across the country. The City of Raleigh, North Carolina, has prided itself on its ability to meet or exceed customer expectations at a competitive cost while achieving system performance, regulatory compliance, and economic growth objectives. The city has embarked on a number of management initiatives in their wastewater and stormwater departments as a means of balancing the sometimes competing objectives of controlling costs and providing quality service. Though under no regulatory requirement to do so, the city has completed a capacity, management, operations and maintenance (CMOM) evaluation of their collection system program, including a benchmarking study to help set and track internal performance goals. This was an update of a similar collection system operations and maintenance performance evaluation conducted by the city in 1997. Comparison of the results of these two studies demonstrates significant performance improvements in the city program in seven years. The city has also employed the assistance of a stakeholders group consisting of a broad representation of community interests to provide input to the city on level of service expectations for their stormwater program. Each of these processes has provided the city with valuable input and insights as to how to improve the use of existing resources as well as justify the need for increased resources to meet level of service expectations.

Based on this input, city staff recommended increased resources needs to the City Manager and City Council. The result has been significant increases in resources for the wastewater collection and stormwater programs. The wastewater collection system operations budget has substantially increased in the seven years since the initial performance evaluation study conducted by the city, and the city stormwater program budget has been doubled. The need for these increases was justified through the use of program evaluations, system benchmarking, and stakeholder input. Results are documented through improvements in the performance of the utility systems and in the level of service the city provides to its customers. This overall process has resulted in the city having a better understanding of how to meet customer level of service expectations and better resources available to provide sustainability of the city's utility infrastructure.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2175/193864705784291268

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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  • 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.

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