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City public works department seeks efficient operations

SHERIDAN — The portions of the Sheridan Public Works Department funded mostly by enterprise funds — fees for services such as water, sewer and solid waste — presented a proposed budget at Wednesday’s City Council work session that focused on making operations more efficient in order to keep expenses, and thus fees for customers, as low as possible.

The work session was the final budget presentation as the city works to adopt its budget for fiscal year 2014-2015.

Utilities Director Dan Roberts focused on a variety of divisions including utilities administration, billing and collections, water supply and treatment, wastewater treatment, utility maintenance and solid waste administration and collection.

The operating budget for water and sewer increased approximately $250,000 from fiscal year 2014. The proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 is $4.39 million over $4.13 million in 2014.

Roberts said the increase in the budget was mainly due to increased salaries and wages, which were enacted in all city departments, one time expenses of software upgrades for the billing department and a new asset management system, and additional power consumption for water and wastewater treatment.

The new asset management program, which will cost $40,000, will enable the city to more accurately track and monitor all its assets, ranging from land, to equipment to pieces of pipes.

“Envision a GIS map and envision every little piece of water pipe or valve, or if you go to a water plant, every little motor or pump, everything inside of it, as being an asset from grounds to streets to park equipment to irrigation systems, if you look at that as an asset you can track it from a mapping perspective. Whenever there’s expense applied to it or maintenance done to it or anything like that, you have a database system built in that allows you to track it,” Roberts said.

The budget for water supply and treatment at the Big Goose Water Treatment Plant increased approximately $65,000 from $473,500 in fiscal year 2014 to $539,000 in 2015 due to increased personnel expenses and staining the exterior siding. At the same time, the budget for the Sheridan plant decreased $42,000.

Roberts said the conventional upgrades to the Sheridan and Big Goose water treatment plants will cause some operating expenses to increase and some to decrease. He said power consumption will be the primary increase. At this point, an increase in chemical usage is expected but likely to lessen over time with more accurate monitoring and dosing, Roberts said.

It was noted on the PowerPoint slides for the presentation that the addition of fluoride to the water was figured into the budget for last year, so this year’s budget will not see increases as a result of fluoride addition.

The budget for the billing department increased $80,000 due to the need to purchase new billing software. The old software used by the city is no longer supported, so the purchase of new ICIS billing software was necessary, Roberts said. The budget for collections dropped $25,000 with the elimination of part-time wages and reduction in contract services.

The city does expect to increase rates for water and sewer in January 2015. Water is expected to increase 3 percent and sewer 2 percent.

On the solid waste side of the public works department, operating costs were projected to decrease in fiscal year 2015 and 2016. The proposed operating budget for solid waste in 2015 is $2.9 million, down nearly $125,000 from 2014. It will decrease further in fiscal year 2016 to $2.6 million.

Roberts said the decrease is due to several ways the landfill has increased efficiency, including grinding up construction and demolition waste. There are no rate adjustments for solid waste in the forseeable future.

“The things we’ve done through that program have allowed us to not have to build an entire cell for our demolition material, which has pushed off future cell development, and that has a direct impact on our rates,” Roberts said. “That’s why I reported to you that we’re not looking at any sanitation rate adjustments in the forseeable future. All those things combined have really started with just a focus on being more efficient.”

 

 

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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