CITY OF SCHENECTADY, NY
Mayor 
Albert P. Jurczynski

  • Population: 66,000
  • Service Area Population: 72,000

For additional information, contact: Milton G. Mitchell, P.E. Commissioner of Public Works City Hall - Jay Street Schenectady, NY 12305 (518) 382-5082 FAX (518) 382-1050

DESCRIPTION OF PARTNERSHIP ARRANGEMENT

In 1991, the City of Schenectady entered into a partnership with Professional Services Group, Inc. (PSG) for the operation, maintenance and management (OM&M) of the City's 18 MGD wastewater treatment plant and its 15 ton per day sludge composting facility. Schenectady elected officials were motivated to adopt the five year contract in 1991 to solve chronic odor problems emanating from the wastewater and composting facilities which had plagued the surrounding neighborhood. Under the partnership agreement, the City maintains ownership of the facilities and contracts with PSG to operate, maintain and manage the facilities. PSG guarantees to meet effluent quality standards and pays all costs associated with daily operations under a fixed annual fee. In less than a year, PSG had made improvements to the composting system and wastewater facilities and, through rigorous application of its odor abatement plan, had resolved the odor problems. This success has resulted in a re-negotiation and a five year renewal of the partnership.

ESTIMATED/ACTUAL COST SAVINGS -- IMPACT ON RATES

Although solving the odor problem was the City's top priority during the early years of the partnership, the City has received something equally important -- operational cost savings amounting to more than $2.5 million over the term of the first contract. Additional savings of $1.5 million are projected over the life of the second five year contract term. Improvements in process operations have resulted in substantial reductions in electricity and fuel costs. The City has made capital improvements recommended by PSG which have further reduced costs and ultimately saved the City money. The City has been able to stabilize sewer user rates while cutting costs without sacrificing service. With the operational and odor problems a thing of the past, the city has achieved the ultimate goal of a public/private partnership -- quality service and low cost.

LABOR RELATIONS

The City's labor unions strongly opposed the City's efforts to form a public/private partnership for operations of its wastewater treatment plant. Job security, pay levels and benefits were key employee concerns in the transition from public to private employment. All affected workers were offered jobs with PSG, however one-fourth of them decided to "bump" down into other city departments. Since that time, one-half of these workers, filed applications for employment with the private operator after having seen the positive changes that have occurred over the past five years. Pay and benefits ended up being as good or better. With the change to private employment came new opportunities for personal and professional growth and advancement -- opportunities that most cities simply cannot provide. The first union contract between PSG and AFSCME was negotiated in only two sessions. Union negotiations for the new five year labor agreement were completed in just a single meeting. Morale among the plant workers has increased dramatically and labor grievances have become non-existent since PSG has assumed responsibility for plant operations in 1991.

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