City Looking to Take Water & Sewer Work In-house, Save $350k Annually

The City could soon be running its own Water and Sewer Department as part of the Department of Public Works.

Currently, Chelsea outsources those water, sewer, and drainage services to R.H. White Construction Company as part of a 10-year contract set to expire on July 21, 2022.

City Manager Thomas Ambrosino is asking the City Council to consider an early termination of that contract, allowing the City to get a jump on establishing its own Water and Sewer Division under the DPW. While there will be initial start-up costs and ongoing personnel costs, Ambrosino said Chelsea will ultimately save about $350,000 per year.

Ambrosino is requesting the City pay an early termination fee for the contract with R.H. White in order to get the City Water and Sewer division operable by July of 2020.

“The DPW leadership and I recommend that we meet in subcommittee to go over (an informational spreadsheet) and work plan in detail,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the City Council. “This will allow the Council to understand fully why we believe we can perform these services not only cheaper, but at a higher quality, and with more resources, than we currently achieve with the RH White annual contract.”

The upfront costs of the water and sewer transition prior to July of 2020 include the purchase of new vehicles and equipment and the hiring of seven employees to make sure the department is prepared to take full control of the water and sewer system on the date.

The total additional Fiscal Year 2020 costs are just over $1.5 million, according to the City Manager.

“The capital costs are obvious one-time expenditures,” said Ambrosino. “But the added personnel costs in FY20 are also one-time expenses. All of these personnel costs will be covered by the $1.784 million saved on the annual RH White contract starting in FY21 when the contract is terminated.”

Ambrosino recommended that all the one-time costs be paid for through the retained earnings in the City’s Water and Sewer Enterprise System, the equivalent of free cash in the general government budget.

•In other business at Monday night’s City Council meeting, Ambrosino asked the Council to consider a plan for municipal electric aggregation.

“Because municipal electric aggregation has the potential of providing more stable and lower prices and utilizing more renewable energy sources, over 140 municipalities in Massachusetts have taken advantage of this program,” Ambrosino said.

•The City Manager also told the council that the City will seek competitive bids for Chelsea towing work beginning in Fiscal Year 2020, which begins on July 1.

Although Ambrosino said towing work is exempt from state bidding laws, the City will seek bids for the work in response to a recent City Council order by District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero. “There is some work required to prepare a (request for proposals) and evaluate responses,” said Ambrosino. “For this reason, the Purchasing Agent believes he will have a new contract for towing services in place no later than September 1, 2019.”

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