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Stockton mayor Mary Norell pauses for a photo during a lengthy breakdown of the city’s water tower maintenance contract structure and financial details.

Aldermen approve contract cancellation, bids to be sought

In a brief, rescheduled bi-monthly Stockton city alderman meeting held Wednesday, June 26, elected officials unanimously voted to take immediate steps in addressing the city’s longstanding water tower maintenance contract.

Based largely around the combined effort of city officials to curb spending and maintain a healthier bottom line, a 90-day notice of non-renewal was sent to Utility Services, the company which held the maintenance contract on Stockton’s North and South water towers since 2008.

“This, like several other important steps we’ve taken recently, is purely about fiscal soundness,” Norell said. “When we’re talking numbers of this size, in the hundreds of thousands, things can get out of hand easily and that’s not something we’re taking lightly.”

Norell said she, along with city staff, has recently consulted with other cities and municipalities of similar size in regard to their respective maintenance agreements and practices relating to utility operations and services, like city-owned water services.

“We came to find a number of other cities handle this more independently, rather than being locked into something with a larger up-front annual cost,” Norell said. “There are a number of options available to us which are far more affordable and allow us as a city to decide what needs to be done and when.”

Norell went on to explain the city was currently at the end of a decade-long contract which cost almost $450,000.

Though much of the contract’s lifespan was before Norell’s time in office, the mayor was clear in her stance on soliciting bids and potentially seeking alternative services as a way of reducing annual expenses.

After the city received its final services and the remaining water tower at the North end of the city painted this year, city officials were in complete agreement when it came to researching more affordable and understandable maintenance agreement.

“It really comes down to clarity and affordability,” Norell said. “We’ve paid handsomely for the last 10 years and that was all paid up front. We feel we need to research something which will better fit our needs and let some of our employees be involved with the process.”

Norell said part of the city’s plan moving forward will be to have public works supervisor Raymond Heryford involved with water tower inspections and maintenance projects both large and small — something the previous contract lacked in some ways, according to Norell.

“As a number-driven person, when we have a healthier bottom line and direct control in these maintenance decisions, it makes sense on multiple levels. We can put away more money for these specific services, have it build interest, access it when we needed it and reduce our annual expenditures at the same time.”

Norell also spoke at length about the city’s goal of fiscal soundness and its direct relation to attracting new business and industry — citing the benefits to reduced maintenance costs and their direct relation to a healthier balance sheet being attractive to perspective businesses which might consider Stockton as an operational location in the future.

With a parallel mentality to the city’s recent moves — the solar panel installations at the water towers, the airport improvements, park repairs and improvements through possible grant funds — the aldermen and mayor have collectively worked toward a more financially stable future with the next 10-20 years especially in mind.  

Progress, community synergy and looking ahead at additional issues to address for the benefit of a fiscally sound Stockton were all topics of discussion during the contractual conversation as the board unanimously approved the non-renewal of the current water tower maintenance contract as well as the sourcing of new bids for services to be rendered.

Norell will present potential options, projected costs and working contractual terms after the city receives bids from new water tower servicing entities in the near future.

Norell summarized the city decision to seek bids and a new maintenance contact structure by conveying a message of common sense: “If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always gotten,” Norell said.

The next board meeting will be 4:30 p.m., July 8, at Stockton City Hall.

The meetings are open to the public and interested community members are encouraged to attend.

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