Veolia’s proposed contract with the city’s water division would reduce annual operating costs up to 15 percent, conserve water and reduce energy usage. From an environmental and financial standpoint, there’s a lot to like.
The allegations raised in a recent story in The St. Louis American are incredibly inaccurate (“Analysis shows Veolia deal effectively privatizes water operations, threatens provisions of Sunshine Law”). The argument falsely claims that “the operations of the City’s Water Division would be under the control of Veolia – that’s privatizing.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. The contract is not privatization. Any claim that states or tries to imply privatization is wrong.
The city selected Veolia to provide consulting on how to reduce annual operating costs up to 15 percent without layoffs, how to conserve water and how to reduce energy and chemical usage.
Veolia’s proposal states clearly that this is a consulting agreement and that all assets and employees remain public. This can all be found in Section 1.7 of the contract, which among other things, states that “the City and SLWD will at all times be fully responsible for the operation and maintenance of its facilities.” The proposal is explicit. This is a public-private partnership consulting contract.
The accusations make assumptions about Veolia’s business that are not true. Veolia’s core business is the public-private partnership model. In fact, Veolia only has one “privatization” contract in North America, in Franklin, Ohio. That was signed in 1995 as part of an EPA pilot project. Our focus is public-private partnerships. We believe that public ownership with private sector support can make cities stronger.
The consulting model selected by St. Louis is not new. Various other North American cities have implemented this model, including New York City. The city expects to save more than $100 million annually by using it.
Veolia wants to keep the system public and has said so publicly numerous times; the city wants to keep the system public; the City Charter restricts privatization; and the contract states that the system would be public. That’s it in a nutshell – claims to the contrary are wrong.
The St. Louis Water Division is doing a good job providing quality water with the infrastructure they have. But when they asked the city for permission to raise rates for the third time in three years, the city first wanted to see if the system could be made more efficient.
The city asked four companies to provide proposals for help. Veolia’s proposal was selected. People will get to keep their jobs while the city benefits from improvements in environmental efficiency. Veolia is proud to provide this service to St. Louis and looks forward to working with the city.
David Gadis is Executive Vice President of Veolia Water North America and a key member of the team that would work with the City of St. Louis. Ratepayers interested in the facts of the proposal can read the documents directly at www.stl-water-future.com.