City studies private sewer help
By Julie Fernandez
City Manager Kevin Northcraft emphasized this is "not a front-burner thing" but
confirmed he is studying the feasibility of contracting with private companies to provide
sewer, treatment plant, street sweeping, and transit services.
The study is an attempt to explore all options "in an effort to be as cost-effective
as we can," Northcraft said.
The hiring of Lew Nelson as assistant public-works director has alleviated "a lot of
my concerns" about the wastewater-treatment plant because he comes to Tulare with
considerable experience in that area, he said.
News of the study surfaced at last week's Board of Public Utilities meeting after
commissioners wondered why the proposed 2003-04 budget doesn't include dollars to fill the
vacant wastewater superintendent's position.
The job has been vacant for quite a while and the city has hired consultant who works two
days a week on treatment-plant issues.
"Maybe we have already privatized it," Commissioner Ken Nunes quipped.
Northcraft said the future of street-sweeping operations is "probably on the front
burner a little bit more" than the other services.
He has discussed with Visalia City Manager Steve Salomon the possibility of joining with
other cities to contract with a company for the service, he said.
As for the transit system, the city manager said Tulare is possibly the only city in the
area that operates its own system. The Visalia Coach system, for example, is contracted
out to Laidlaw Transportation.
Northcraft said he suspects "it's a matter of time" before there is just one
transit system for the whole county, since that is what has happened elsewhere in the
No one on the City Council is pushing for privatization but he is looking at it because
"one of our goals is to be as cost effective as we can," Northcraft said.