FORT RILEY, Kan. -- The privatization of the utilities on Fort Riley continues with the water and wastewater operations having been transferred to a contractor. In March, the electricity transferred to City Light and Power and the process has begun to choose a contractor for the natural gas service.
Supervisor engineer technician with the Utilities and Energy Branch, Johnny Webb, said the utilities privatization is a Department of Defense directive issued in 2008 as a cost-savings measure.
Branch director Jeff Williamson had led the work on privatizing Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, before coming to Fort Riley.
"When he came here the focus was 'how can we privatize and come in line with the Department directive,'" Webb said. "So the procurement process started in 2014. It took this long to go through the process; do the procurement, narrow down the selectees and actually award a contract."
As of midnight June 30, the entire water and wastewater system went to the control of American States Utility Services under a 50-year contract.
Headquartered in California and Virginia, ASUS, has utility contracts with several military installations nationwide. Webb said for every post the company creates a Limited Liability Corporation and names it in relationship to the post. Here, the LLC is Fort Riley Utility Services.
The company will oversee a variety of utility assets, including, according to the ASUS website, one million feet of water piping and over 750,000 feet of wastewater piping; 11 storage tanks with nearly six million gallons of storage capacity; 43 wastewater lift stations; 11 wells; five booster pumping stations; one water treatment plant and one wastewater treatment plant.
The wastewater treatment plant they are inheriting is the only one of its kind in Kansas Webb said. What makes the advanced wastewater treatment plant unique is the way waste is processed.
"If you'd ever seen the plant on Custer Hill that's now closed, it had big clarifier tanks that had to run to process the waste," he said. "Now there is only one big advanced tank and one clarifier. (The waste) runs through and it actually produces what they call a Class A biosolid. So, what's left at the end of the process is a usable by-product."
Once the tests are run to ensure it is meets the Class A specifications, the waste can be used for composting and to fertilize the ranges.
One of the first orders of business for ASUS is to begin slip-lining some of the older water pipes on post.
Slip-lining is a method of rehabilitating and restoring structural stability to existing pipes. The process calls for installing a smaller carrier pipe into the larger host pipe.
Webb said part of the procurement process included having an independent company complete an assessment of the utility infrastructure on Fort Riley.
"They identified what they called ISDC, Initial System Deficiency Corrections," he said. "All of those old lines, the ones when you turn the water on and it's brown and you have to let it run a while, those are going to be slip lined. The focus is going to be on the Custer Hill area, that is an initial system deficiency that was identified so that's in the contract -- they have to immediately."
Webb said City Light and Power, headquartered in Colorado, has had the electric contract since March 1 and has been satisfied with their work.
"They are a great company," he said. "We haven't had any issues whatsoever so far -- now we haven't had a big event yet either."
In June, a transformer near the commissary blew on a Sunday morning, which affected about 500 customers.
"They had the parts replaced, fixed and power on within three hours," he said. "They are very well-versed in what they do."
He expects the prompt service to continue as the companies Fort Riley contracts with are required to maintain a certain staff level sufficient for the work.
Public Works employees
The only changes people who use the utilities on post will see is constant improvements being made and a different set of employees doing the work.
However, for the Public Works employees, they knew they were in for a change.
"These positions were going to go away, like high-voltage electricians, water treatment plant operators, wastewater treatment plant operators," Webb said. "The Garrison Commander said 'nobody is going to lose their job' and so for every person who wanted to continue working for the government they found a position for them under the realignment."
Some of the employees went to range operations, some of them took jobs with the
contractors and others took voluntary early retirement or voluntary separation.
"All of the ones who wanted a job got a position," Webb said. "I don't know of anybody who did not. If they went with retirement or separation, it was their choice. Everyone who wanted to be retained was 100 percent retained."
The final utility to contract out is the natural gas, but it is still in the procurement process.
The other two are 50-year contracts with clauses to allow for adjustments and changes.
"In both contracts the government reserves the right to take, buy back the systems and run them," Webb said. "But it also allows for us to expand infrastructure or reduce it based on the post requirements."
The process for people on post to report utility issues remains the same. Webb said people should still call the service order desk. After hours the call will go to the Fort Riley Operations Center.
"The FROC calls me or one of my team and we get the contractor on site," he said. "If it's a power outage they have 30 minutes to be on site, an hour to make an assessment. Generally an hour and a half to fix it."