Newton, please do not drink the “koolaid”. The city rate payers have been investing substantial funds in upgrading our public utilities. I do not consider $4,000,000 to $5,000,000 a year in recent times and more in earlier years, neglect.
If the investments made to date were better thought out/managed, our system would not be facing some of its current problems. The problem is not so much how much has been invested, but rather in how we invested it.
One could well argue that the zero read meter problem and the reuse difficulties did not result from failure to properly invest, but occurred because of poor decision-making and failure to properly manage these projects. Two observations shape this conclusion:
First, many believe that our current meter mess is a result of installing defective meters. It was reported in 2012 that a number of the failed meters were installed within the past few years. For how many years and across how many dollars were the same meters replaced? It was only when line level employees complained to a councilman that action was finally taken to stop the insane meter replacement treadmill. This is an example of failure to properly manage. (Bless our courageous employees, if they had not come forth, we have no idea how much longer this debacle would have continued.)
During the same period as the registers on the meters were not recording, the City entered into an ambitious and expensive program to automate our meter reading program. Millions were spent to provide automated readers for meters that were failing. The millions spent on the automated system could have gone a long way to resolving our no read meter failures. Public utilities should have fixed the meter problem first, before embarking on an expensive new effort. This is an example of poor decision making.
Second, millions were also spent to upgrade our reuse water system. Two large lakes and associated structures were developed. The plan was to pump surplus reuse water to these lakes during periods of low demand and then pump out of these lakes during period of high demand. Unhappily, this multi-million dollar system does not perform the majority of water pumped into the lakes cannot be retrieved. As a result, potable water is being used to augment the reuse system, and during wet periods we are once again dumping water into our estuary. Currently an additional $2,500,000 has been allocated in a further attempt to get this star-crossed system to work.
If the meters had been addressed in a timely and cost effective manner, there would not only be cost savings over our current approach, but there may have been a better income stream. How many miles of sewer could be relined, how many miles of galvanized could have been replaced, if we hadn’t built the Lakes?
So, again, was it “neglect or doing too little” or was it mismanagement and poor planning? Throwing money at the problem has not worked in the past, not certain whether it will work in the future.
Submitted by Newton White on 2014/05/25 at 7:49 am in reply to Don Juan
I have taken the time to talk with current and former folks and know very well where we are with our meters aging out, our too little maintenance of lines and pipes and the all too soon need to upgrade our sewer/reclaim plant to meet new standards. Utilities is not the only place suffering from neglect and facing the high costs of doing to little.
I have no doubt they needed most of the items bought. My focus is that controls and procedures do no exist or were not being followed. Tens of Thousands of dollars were spent without proper authorization and a purchase limit exceeded by nearly double before it was stopped.
Perhaps if these needs were brought back to council the extent of the problems would be coming out sooner. Perhaps if a better look was taken in 2012 we would not have gone a year with as many as 1798 zero reads, according to the memorandum on 4/22/14.
Newton@NewtonWhite.us If you want to talk to me I would be happy to hear from you. Online, in person or on the phone…