The next step in having EPCOR take over the city’s drainage operation was taken Tuesday. Now, it’ll be your chance to have your say at a public hearing. Coun. Mike Nickel is showing some skepticism saying EPCOR has lost contracts with unsuccessful bids in other cities, suggesting the common theme was they were too expensive.
“I’ve raised a couple of examples of some other jurisdictions that are pulling out of contracts because they weren’t found to be more efficient,” he told reporters. “It’s all about value at the end of the day for the taxpayer. We just saw a report on street lights where we compared a private sector comparitor, to EPCOR on the installation of street lights and they were 10 to 30 per cent more.”
EPCOR countered that those contracts were completed successfully and changes were made after they ran out.
President and CEO Stuart Lee reiterated to council that if EPCOR brings drainage into portfolio, the taxpayer will see higher profits for the city owned company, meaning a larger dividend will be part of the city’s annual budget.
“There’s efficiencies in bringing all four components of the water cycle together. There’s efficiency in work force planning, from fleet optimization, from the way we utilize external versus internal engineering resources. There’s a number of different areas that have been identified.”
Lee also told reporters that the utility rates you’ll pay will be lower under this deal, capped at a three per cent increase. “The city has great levers. They have three different levels of control, particularly as a regulator. They continue to regulate the business. They’ll set rates. They’ll set performance standards. They’ll set the capital plans. From an oversight perspective there’ll be no loss in transparency. There’ll be no loss in control from the city’s perspective.”
EPCOR’s end game is to be able to market itself as an expert in flood mitigation, which is a growing business because of climate change, as storms appear to be more intense in isolated areas. “We think we’ll augment the city’s expertise with our own engineering and ability to deliver capital plans effectively. If you bring the two areas together, drainage with EPCOR it’s actually stronger to be able to address those issues,” Lee said.
Council has set the afternoon of January 24 for the public hearing. A date later this month was first proposed, however a couple of councillors worried that it seemed like they were rushing, and they wanted to give the public more opportunity to learn about the deal.