Best Practices
 

CITY OF WEST HARTFORD
Mayor Sandy Klebanoff

Cornerstone Aquatics Center: A Public-Private Partnership

West Hartford was presented an opportunity to venture into a public-private partnership in fiscal year 1991-92 upon the completion of renovations to its indoor aquatics facility. Known as Cornerstone Aquatics Center, the family-oriented facility was upgraded to include a new 11-lane 25-yard competition pool, two one-meter diving boards, a zero-depth handicap-accessible ramp leading into an existing six-lane 25-yard pool, a hydrotherapy pool, an exercise room, and a meeting/play room. Prior to the renovations in 1991, the town conducted a market research survey to determine that these amenities were most desirable to the public.

West Hartford entered a public/private partnership with an aquatics firm for the management and maintenance of the town's indoor aquatics facility beginning July 1, 1991. The contract between the town and the contractor allows the town to retain control over pricing and policy decisions such as determining the program mix (recreational, fitness, instructional, competitive, therapeutic), yet the contractor is given the freedom to staff the facility and operate it in a way that maximizes aquatic programming quality and customer satisfaction while optimizing the facility's financial performance. Under this contract the contractor accepts the risk of covering all of the facility's direct operating costs. Once these costs are covered each year, surplus revenues are used to pay the town's utility bills for the facility, and any additional surplus thereafter is split between the town and contractor on a 50/50 basis. After nearly 30 years of taxpayer-subsidized operation of the town's indoor aquatics facility, the public-private partnership has provided growing cash surpluses to the town.

Prior to the renovations, the aquatics facility had become outdated and deficient in many areas, including patron safety, comfort and convenience. Expenses to run the facility were by far exceeding its revenue. The tax burden to cover these costs was borne by all taxpayers even though a small percentage actually used the facility. Under the public-private partnership, the pool operation was removed from the general fund and a user fee policy was instituted where only the users of the service pay for the operating costs of the facility, not every taxpayer.

The Town of West Hartford's public-private partnership improved the delivery of services to its customers in two ways: by increasing the variety of instructional aquatics offerings and by removing the tax burden of operating the facility from the town. The flexibility of the partnership and renovations to the center allowed the aquatics manager to continuously offer over 40 sections of instructional programming to people of all ages, from infants to senior citizens. Among the many programs offered are aquatic physical therapy, water babies, swimming and diving instruction, competitive swimming, water aerobics, and American Red Cross water safety training. The quality and breadth of the offerings at Cornerstone Aquatics Center were recognized nationally by the United States Water Fitness Association, an organization that reviews and rates water exercise programs throughout the country. The association awarded Cornerstone Aquatics Center the following designations:

Number One aquatics program for 1992 and 1993 among all municipalities nationally;

Number One aquatics program for 1992 in the State of Connecticut among all programs including municipal, private clubs and universities;

Number Eight aquatics program for 1992 in the entire nation among all programs.

In early 1994, after two years under private management, the town conducted a user survey to determine customer satisfaction with the facility and its operation. The results were overwhelmingly positive. For example, almost 90 percent of the respondents were "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" overall. Ninety-three percent said the facility was clean. Ninety-eight percent of the respondents said the facility was safe and maintained in good condition. Eighty-three percent thought the facility was not overcrowded and programs were offered at convenient times.

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West Hartford Public Works Transfer Station -- A Public-Private

Partnership The contract agreement between West Hartford and GreenCycle of the Northeast is a model public-private partnership because it achieves profit-making results for both parties while addressing the needs of all of its constituents: the residents of the community, the town's public works department, local landscapers, contractors, waste haulers, and other area municipalities.

West Hartford, like many communities in the northeast, used to burn its solid waste in its own incinerator. In 1972 the incinerator was shut down and the facility was converted to a transfer station. In 1991 the town elected to have its curbside trash collection sent directly to the regional trash-to-energy plant in Hartford. Since then the incinerator building was unused and had become a target for vandals. The transfer station was also becoming a liability because it was in need of repairs and was costing taxpayers' money just to secure it.

In 1994, West Hartford decided to solicit proposals for the renovation and operation of the transfer station facility. GreenCycle of the Northeast was selected primarily for its commitment to serving West Hartford residents, an important criterion of the municipality. GreenCycle began operating the facility in October 1994, and has since overhauled the transfer station at its own expense by replacing broken window panes, installing new siding on a portion of the building, and repairing the scale and compactors.

The West Hartford-GreenCycle profit-sharing agreement spans six years beginning October 1994. The public-private partnership has reduced the demands on town personnel and has turned a liability into a revenue-producing asset.

West Hartford benefits from this public-private partnership in the following ways:

  • The town earns income on monthly rent from GreenCycle of the Northeast.

  • A portion of GreenCycle's tipping fee is shared with the town.

  • The town receives a percentage of sales on GreenCycle's bulk soil and mulch products which are sold to commercial landscapers.

  • The town earns added income by renting its equipment to the contractor.

  • Neighboring towns dispose of yard waste in West Hartford where the tipping fee is $44 per ton compared to $59 per ton elsewhere.

  • The town no longer incurs the liability of the transfer station building.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (203) 523-3295

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