Washougal decides not to outsource public works

City officials had hoped for higher potential cost savings

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The Washougal City Council issued a unanimous vote last night, to not pursue the outsourcing of public works responsibilities.

The vote occurred after several members of the public expressed concerns about water, sewer and stormwater rates.

In August, the council voted 4 to 3 to authorize Mayor Sean Guard to sign a $45,335 professional services agreement with Science Applications International Corporation, of Seattle. The agreement was expected to help city leaders determine if a public-private partnership for operation, maintenance and management of the city’s water, wastewater and storm water utilities is feasible.

The analysis by SAIC was also expected to include identification of potential short- and long-term savings and efficiencies that might be realized by the city on its own.

City Administrator David Scott said the draft preliminary report indicates a potential of 7 to 14.5 percent in savings, but the analysis had not been perfected yet. Some fixed costs, such as the utility tax payment, would not change.

A request for proposals, from companies interested in providing operations and maintenance services for the city’s public works, would utilize 5 to 10 percent of the potential savings.

There would also be legal costs, which councilman Brent Boger, an attorney, said would be “six figures.”

“I sense a lot of hesitation from some council members,” Guard said regarding the potential privatization of operations and maintenance, prior to the vote.

“Privatization is not a good idea,” said Councilwoman Jennifer McDaniel. “It would not be beneficial.”

“It’s time to cease going down this path,” Boger said.

“The savings are not what we hoped for — 20 percent,” Scott said. “Is it worth the effort of an RFP?”

“I voted for the feasibility study,” said councilman Dave Shoemaker. “I do not think I can support the further expenditure of resources.”

During public comment, John Wagoner applauded the council’s decision.

“Public works staff have worked here many, many years,” he said. “That is expertise we could have lost.”

There are 29 employees in the Washougal public works department. They include five managers and 24 members of the American Federation of State and Municipal Employees Union Local 307-W.

Meanwhile, city staff members are working on a preliminary rate relief measure that could result in a single family residential bi-monthly water, sewer and stormwater bill of less than $200. The current bi-monthly rate is approximately $211.

Residents are in their third year of a five-year overall increase of 122 percent for water, sewer and storm water rates. The increases were required to pay for water and sewer infrastructure improvements, in order to meet state and federal regulations. They include the $15 million upgrade of the city’s wastewater treatment facility.

The council will hold a workshop Monday, at 6 p.m., in the council chambers at City Hall, 1701 “C” St.