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Thursday, January 5, 2012

DOLLARS AND SENSE: Ways we are controlling costs

How are we keeping our Great Lake great and controlling costs?

We take our customers' investment in our work very seriously. Clean water protects the health and safety of all the citizens in our region, and we are proud of the work we do. But we understand customers want to be sure we are managing their rates efficiently, especially in the first year of a rate increase. Here are several examples of cost-saving efforts and examples we have noted in recent years.

Budgets: Bidding, and better terms

Our operating budget has held pretty firm over the last three years and that can be attributed to a few things, including an improved procurement process that has opened new and more competitive bidding opportunities, and better-term contracts on utilities.

For example, as part of Project Clean Lake, the Sewer District is constructing the Tunnel Dewatering Pump Station, part of the Euclid Creek Tunnel. Initially, the District assessed the cost of the station to be $200 million. However, through diligence and competitive bidding, the lowest bid came in at $69 million, almost one-third of the original estimate.


Wages and benefits have also been well-managed, and staffing increases primarily have concentrated in our areas of expanding responsibility: Engineering, and Environmental Services.


Our treatment plant personnel do amazing work, and their resourcefulness also keeps costs low: One example is a 2010 pump repair project that we in-housed rather than outsourced, saving more than $41,000 thanks to the Southerly Wastewater Treatment Plant staff's ingenuity.

Oversight and opportunities

Our capital program is large, too, and with that comes an even greater responsibility to make sure dollars are invested wisely. The improved MWSBE (Minority-owned, woman-owned and small business enterprises) program known as the Business Opportunity Program has expanded local business opportunities, increased competitive bids, and kept contract increases to a minimum.

No construction-cost overruns

Since 2007, there have been no engineering change orders due to construction cost overruns.

In-house creativity

We outsource very little of our outreach-materials production. The design, writing and layouts are all developed in-house, saving valuable marketing dollars. Printing is often our only expense. This saves the organization thousands each year.

Sustainability saves

We are constantly looking for ways to gain saving through innovation. Our Southerly Renewable Energy Facility currently under construction will produce enough power to meet 25% of the Southerly plant's entire electrical needs when it goes online in 2013. This helps the environment and our bottom line.

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