WHAT IS THE REGIONALIZATION STUDY?
The goal is to see if there are efficiency and cost-saving options available to ratepayers of water and wastewater services offered by several local governments through a consolidation of operations. The study is a collaborative effort between Chelan County, Chelan County PUD, the cities of Leavenworth and Cashmere and the Peshastin Water District to look at ways for improving water and wastewater services. The purpose of the study is to identify potential efficiencies for services such as meter reading, billing and using specialty equipment and contract services that are common to each of the current system operators participating in the study. One option may be to consolidate these systems under one regional operation owned and operated by Chelan PUD.
Chelan PUD customer-owners were invited to submit proposals for projects that could be funded under the Public Power Benefit program created under the 2015 District Strategic Plan. Customer-owners were urged to recommend projects that would improve the quality of life in Chelan County and that would provide the best for the most for the longest period of time. The cities of Cashmere and Leavenworth, along with the Chelan County Board of Commissioners submitted a proposal to consider the potential for regionalization of the water/wastewater services in the upper Wenatchee Valley. The study was funded by the PUD Commissioners for 2017.
Combining and consolidating utilities can create efficiency opportunities such as responsive service levels, cost reduction and improved long-term maintenance, reliability and sustainability. Each entity participating in the study currently operates individual water and wastewater systems on the Wenatchee River. There is separate planning, operations, maintenance and management for each of the individual utilities. A single operator could increase coordinated operational savings and eliminate duplicated efforts, as well as reduce labor costs.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS TO MOVE TOWARDS REGIONALIZATION
Each participating community utility will select a community advisor(s). These are individuals who are committed to the overall goal of the effort to represent the best interests of ratepayers and not representing any one particular point of view. In all likelihood, advisors will have some degree of knowledge of the situation, the desired outcome and the systems involved. Public meetings will be held to encourage community feedback and engagement.
Community advisors will be identified in March 2017 and the study approach agreed to. A consultant will be brought on board to work with the advisory group by June 2017. The preliminary study results will be completed by the end of 2017.
Local leaders will deliberate on the study findings and may choose to adopt the recommendations, ask for additional information and/or identify other options not included in the study.
This is an opportunity for the Upper Valley communities to collaborate on a vital service that would benefit ratepayers and improve the quality of life for those along the Wenatchee River who rely on this vital waterway.