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Government

Wichita's Proposed Utility Partnership Faces Scrutiny

utility_partnership_city_of_wichita.jpg
Courtesy City of Wichita
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Updated Tuesday, 12:39 p.m.: The Wichita City Council voted unanimously to approve a 16-month contract with consulting firm CH2M Hill to analyze the city's water and sewer systems.

The Wichita City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on a proposal that involves a utility partnership with a private company to evaluate the city’s water system. A group called the Wichita Water Coalition is concerned that there has not been enough public involvement.

City officials reinforce that the partnership is not an effort to privatize the utilities, outsource jobs or sell off utility assets. But Janice Bradley with the Wichita Water Coalition says there’s a clear conflict of interest if the city contracts with a company for the assessment, which is Phase I, and that same company gets negotiating rights for a 10-year contract to manage the water system, which is Phase II.

“I’m just concerned that the city hasn’t really brought it to the people for their view," Bradley says. "It’s like they're all on board and ready to vote it in without a lot of public input.”

City Councilwoman Janet Miller says if the private company identifies efficient ways to operate the water and sewer system and save the city money, then they will move on to the second phase of the project.

"The competitive process happens on the front end where we issued a [request for proposals] for both phase one and phase two, if it is to occur," Miller says.

Miller says the city is not obligated to proceed with Phase II if they are unhappy with the assessment. The proposals were submitted in June.

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Carla Eckels is assistant news director and the host of Soulsations. Follow her on Twitter @Eckels.

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