Speaking at today's Westfield Rotary Club meeting, Mayor Andy Cook announced that the city will seek potential private sector buyers of its water and waste water utility.
Citing the challenges of maintaining fiscal responsibility during tough economic times while simultaneously preparing for the infrastructure needs of the next 20 years, the Mayor laid out the rationale behind the decision to seek potential suitors. "Many cities in the Midwest and across the country are faced with meeting the demands of growth," he said. "The City of Westfield is exploring various creative options that will preserve an adequate source of water for the future, address environmental mandates relating to waste water, solve urgent capital needs resulting from rapid growth, and harness future water rate increases."
The city's debt load of $8 million in municipal debt and $6 million of Tax Increment Finance debt pale in comparison to the $56 million of utility debt. Although this utility debt is by no means out of proportion with other similarly sized municipalities around the state and country, it still represents challenges for the future. By selling the utility to the private sector, the city hopes to erase that utility debt while also raising cash that can be used to make needed infrastructure improvements. Such improvements could include much-needed intersection improvements as well as filling gaps in the trail system.
The Mayor lauded Rotarian Kurt Wanninger, Westfield Public Works Director, for the job he has done building the utility to be the valuable asset that it is today. Potential private suitors should be attracted by the quality of the water assets and infrastructure as well as Westfield's enormous potential growth.
Requests for Proposals (RFPs) will be distributed locally and nationally this week. Responses should be received by mid-June. An advisory team of city department heads as well as appointed and elected officials will review the proposals and recommend a course of action to the Mayor and City Council by late July.
The City has created a website dedicated to the possible water and waste water utility sale. It can be found within the city's website at www.westfield.in.gov. The site will contain all relevant important documents, including the RFP. Additional information and updates will be sent to rate payers' homes and a series of public community meetings will be scheduled in the upcoming months to discuss the RFP. Those dates, times and locations, when available, will be found on the website.