Mount Pleasant Waterworks Candidates

  • Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Burn

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John W. Burn

Age: 53


Political experience:

• Elected to Mount Pleasant Town Council 2009

• Chaired the public services, recreation and water supply committees

• Served on transportation and planning committees

• Served on the ad hoc special sign and tree ordinance committee


Declining water sales, due to changes in plumbing codes requiring low flow fixtures and, locally because of all the rain, water sales by utilities are declining even with increases in customer base. How do you stabilize the revenue stream necessary to fund the water and wastewater services as cost go up and revenues go down? Through diversification of our revenue stream. Additionally, our staff and commission are working hard to keep costs down.


Renewing aging infrastructure; MPW system began in 1935, much of the infrastructure has exceeded its useful life. What do you think MPW should be doing about renewing aging infrastructure? We are doing this through our asset management program by reinvesting in our old systems every year.


It has been noted by the leadership in the water industry that consumers do not fully appreciate the value of water, especially given the fact that most rates do not recover the true cost of water and wastewater services. How would you respond to that concern? The average household water bill in Mount Pleasant is less than $2 per day. What a bargain. I’m not sure about yours, but my home television/computer bill is much, much more. Comparing the two, I would hope our customers realize the value of water in Mount Pleasant.

Alys Campaigne

Age: 43


Political experience: No previous elected office.


Declining water sales, due to changes in plumbing codes requiring low flow fixtures and, locally because of all the rain, water sales by utilities are declining even with increases in customer base. How do you stabilize the revenue stream necessary to fund the water and wastewater services as as costs go up and revenues go down? These are issues that water utilities all around the country are facing. I have a masters degree in urban planning and over two decades of experience working on public policy at the state, federal, and municipal levels. I would use my experience and draw on what other municipalities are doing to address the challenge of revenue instability while keeping rates affordable. With needs so great it makes sense to be creative and learn from others as part of our decision making process.

A variety of tools are available to deal with variability of revenues, including revenue stabilization funds, raising fixed charges relative to usage charges and providing new services such as service line insurance and contracted lab work.

The first step to stabilizing revenue is good forecasting. We need to include efficiency projections as part of demand forecasting so that our underlying revenue assumptions are sound.

Historical trends don’t always remain relevant in the future, especially in a town experiencing rapid growth and change like Mount Pleasant.

In our region, water service rates are not driven by the cost of purchasing water itself, but by the cost of the pipes and machinery needed to purify and transport clean water supplies to and from our homes and businesses. Renewal and replacement of wastewater infrastructure is one of the biggest expenses for MPW.

It is in the short run that decreasing consumption reduces revenues needed to keep pipes and systems operating so that water supplies aren’t compromised. We don’t want to discourage consumer conservation; fresh water supplies are precious and in the long run efficiency is good business.

Another contributor to cost instability is the fact that line relocations required for major road projects are not paid for out of transportation funds.

When those projects are bundled and fast-tracked, as recently happened in Mount Pleasant, MPW is faced with enormous costs. As a commissioner, I would work with state and county leaders to better coordinate forthcoming road projects and push hard to have road projects, not ratepayers, cover relocation costs.


Renewing aging infrastructure; MPW system began in 1935, much of the infrastructure has exceeded its useful life. What do you think MPW should be doing about renewing aging infrastructure? The cost of renewing aging infrastructure is a major national challenge. MPW has a 10 year capital improvement plan that allocates funds to upgrades based on capacity and condition.

This plan needs to be carefully reviewed and regularly updated so that maintenance and replacement can be anticipated, budgeted for, and phased in over time.

As stated above, careful forecasting and use of revenue stabilization funds are also important for managing the renewal and replacement budget.

Condition assessment tools are being rapidly modernized. MPW should continue to look to new advances in cost-effective assessment approaches such as remote monitoring and wireless pipe inspections.

MPW also may need to explore how impact fees are structured in infill areas. While I support the growth-pays-for-growth approach, planned density and growth in commercial corridors along Coleman Boulevard and other areas puts stress on the oldest part of our water system.

In some cases, impact fees may be appropriately budgeted to pay not only for new lines but for capacity improvements and repairs necessary to accommodate new tie ins. Finally, MPW should explore the potential of public-private partnerships to offer creative ways to finance upgrades.


It has been noted by the leadership in the water industry that consumers do not fully appreciate the value of water, especially given the fact that most rates do not recover the true cost of water and wastewater services. How would you respond to that concern? MPW has a good public education program but more can be done to inform consumers about what is involved in delivering water services and the health implications of their water choices.

MPW can make more visible the extensive network of infrastructure needed to provide water and wastewater services.

Its educational programs should be aggressively marketed to business and civic groups, and include virtual tours and FAQs in print and social media. Some cities such as Seattle and Paris have even created underground water system tours that have become visitor and resident destinations.

I also would support a series of public meetings to get more input on MPW’s current rate structure so that customers are more aware of service costs and needs.

There are numerous revenue sources that fund operations: there are impact fees from developers, base facility charges, usage charges and occasional special assessments on our residential bills.

It is confusing. I would press for more transparency and clarity about what ratepayers are paying for using a public process to re-evaluates how we structure our fees and plan for the future.

Rick Crosby

Age: 60


Political Experience: Served 15 years on Mount Pleasant Waterworks Commission, Currently vice chairman


Declining water sales, due to changes in plumbing codes requiring low flow fixtures and, locally because of all the rain, water sales by utilities are declining even with increases in customer base. How do you stabilize the revenue stream necessary to fund the water and wastewater services as cost go up and revenues go down? With 95 percent of current revenue being generated from monthly water bills, we are continuing to explore ways to find additional services to expand our balance of revenue without having to increase monthly water bills. I am most proud of our commission prioritizing and implementing our rate stabilization fund. This fund allows us to roll over unused revenues at the end of each fiscal year to help stabilize future budgets. This Revenue Stabilization Fund has given us the ability to have balanced the budget as a commission every year I have served. Currently, we have the lowest rates in the county while providing the best quality of water and service to our town.


Renewing aging infrastructure; MPW system began in 1935, much of the infrastructure has exceeded its useful life. What do you think MPW should be doing about renewing aging infrastructure?

In most of the older parts of our system, primarily the Old Village, we have been repairing the old water and waste water systems for several years now. That reinvestment of $15 million is nearly complete. For the rest of the system, our Asset Management Program monitors the condition of the system and our engineering department plans projects to renew aging infrastructure before it fails.


It has been noted by the leadership in the water industry that consumers do not fully appreciate the value of water, especially given the fact that most rates do not recover the true cost of water and wastewater services. How would you respond to that concern? The cost of water services are very low compared to other utility services such as your electricity, cable and telephone bills each month. I believe that residents often take their services for granted because our water system is so reliable. On average, we provide water and waste water services to Mount Pleasant residents for less than $2 per day. That means we deliver more than 1,300 pounds of fresh, clean water to customers homes and take it all away again when its used through our waste water system at the end of the day. The service is appreciated more in a time of need like a natural disaster. We on the commission work to provide the cleanest and highest quality of water while keeping low rates for customers and balancing our budget. That is why I am humbly asking residents for their vote to send me back to the commission on Nov. 5.

Dolph Rodenberg

Age: 60


Political Experience: I served on Town Council in Mount Pleasant from 1992 to 1996. During this period of time, I also served as chairman of the finance committee as well as liaison to MPW.

During my business career, I gained experience while working for an engineering firm in Charleston, during which I worked with Berkeley County Water and Sewer Authority, North Charleston Sewer District, and CPW. While working with these organizations, I gained an extensive knowledge about infrastructure and maintenance of water and sewer systems.

I started a company in 2001 centered around an invention (named The Energy Detective (TED)) that was devised to help people conserve energy. TED is an electricity monitoring system that projects monthly bills and provides real time readings to help consumers reduce energy usage.


Declining water sales, due to changes in plumbing codes requiring low flow fixtures and, locally because of all the rain, water sales by utilities are declining even with increases in customer base. How do you stabilize the revenue stream necessary to fund the water and wastewater services as as costs go up and revenues go down? In order to positively impact the revenue stream, you must either increase sales or decrease expenses. One thing that should be considered is reducing the cost for water for Mount Pleasant. I know that CPW has an extremely low rate for water and if Mount Pleasant can bring in a third tap to access CPW’s water supply, that would be one way to lower the cost of processed water for Mount Pleasant residents.

No matter what is done from a regulation standpoint, Mount Pleasant Waterworks needs to be in compliance with those regulations. If the required regulations impact the cost of water, then certainly those costs need to be absorbed somehow; whether the cost is passed directly to the customer or we configure a way to postpone the actual requirement or possibly determine a way to work around it. Government regulations are requirements that every community must deal with.


Renewing aging infrastructure; MPW system began in 1935, much of the infrastructure has exceeded its useful life. What do you think MPW should be doing about renewing aging infrastructure? The town obviously has a list of the infrastructure as it was put in, including its age, location, and composition when built. This can be approached by using the “First in, first out” inventory management system, but this also may not be the most efficient or cost-effective route to take. I’m certain that MPW keeps logs of locations where water and waste water lines are problematic. Water and sewer lines that are in soils that create deterioration are problematic and need to be addressed first. Without conducting a formal study, I would suggest to approach problems on an “as needed” basis.

Economic Development in Mount Pleasant is crucial, especially if you have a downturn in water usage because of certain situations, such as restrictive water nozzles on showerheads. So anything we can do to promote use of water and waste water would be good for the economy and town.

Mount Pleasant Waterworks sewer lines and water lines that are being relocated because of highway department improvements can be addressed with the smallest impact on Mount Pleasant simply by putting the water and sewer lines in the right of way of the Highway Department during the engineering process, which would mean that the if the Highway Department is relocating a road or putting in a new intersection, it becomes the Highway Department’s responsibility to redirect the water and sewer lines. The cost of relocating water and sewer lines would be the responsibility of the Highway Department and not MPW.

Part of successfully running a water and sewer business is by having experienced and knowledgeable personnel that are familiar with the current infrastructure in place. The biggest difficulty for new employees would be the learning curve involved in learning the infrastructure. Water/Wastewater is a highly technical field and engineering schools are graduating very educated students that are up to speed on the latest technology. In order to help ease the learning curve, I would suggest bringing in interns and letting them work directly with current engineering staff.


It has been noted by the leadership in the water industry that consumers do not fully appreciate the value of water, especially given the fact that most rates do not recover the true cost of water and wastewater services. How would you respond to that concern? Public knowledge: Unfortunately, the general consumer does not understand the amount of effort it takes to produce a gallon of clean water or what it takes to properly handle the waste water generated. I would love to work on educating the public on the true cost of producing water and helping them realize that water is not just a commodity that is produced with little effort.

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