WILLIAMS, Ariz. - In order to deal with a staffing deficiency, the city of Williams has hired an outside company to help run the water and wastewater system.
Williams City Council members unanimously approved a five-year agreement with the Phoenix-based EUSI, LLC at their May 22 meeting.
City Manager Brandon Buchanan said the agreement came about after several employees in the water department resigned. The water superintendent resigned for personal reasons on March 28. Then the water treatment plant operator and wastewater treatment plant operator resigned around the same time, one to retire and one to move on to other opportunities.
"In small towns, it's not real easy to find the type of certified operators that you need, especially a number of them at one time," Buchanan said. "These are professionals that have been trained and have gone through the certifications and the classes and the testing to run these systems."
To continue running the two systems, the city initially hired EUSI to fill in on an interim basis after the operators left. However, since the possibility of finding certified operators who were familiar with the city's water systems was slim, staff proposed developing an extended contract with EUSI.
The company will take over operations of the water treatment plant and the wastewater treatment plant, environmental sampling and permitting work and system oversight. Because the duties of the environmental compliance person were absorbed in the agreement with EUSI, the city no longer needed that staff position.
The monthly fee for the contracted services is about $26,647, which is subject to Consumer Price Index adjustments each year. The cost is budget neutral, since it was set at the same amount it would cost the city to pay the salaries of the four positions EUSI will now fill.
Any additional services, such as special projects or emergency repairs, would be charged as either a negotiated lump sum or at an additional hourly cost, depending on the type of staff required for the job.
The city still has four city employees in the water and wastewater department that oversee the distribution and collection systems.
Buchanan said the agreement with EUSI has several benefits. In addition to providing highly qualified operators, he said the contractors have identified some inefficiencies in the system. For example, they recommended switching from using potable water for some of the treatment processes at the wastewater plant to using some of the water at the plant. The company will also help with past-due system maintenance.
Although the goal is to return to in-house operations at the end of the five-year period, Buchanan said if the arrangement is working well at that point the agreement could be extended.
"This gives us five years to get everything to where it needs to be, figure out where we're heading in the future, and then assess where we need to go from there," he said. "So it buys us a little bit of breathing time to figure out exactly what we need to be doing at that point."