The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

July 9, 2013

Staff, union troubled by thought of privatization

OTTUMWA — The idea of privatizing Ottumwa’s Water Pollution Control Facility struck a nerve with its staff and union representatives.

The city council unanimously shot down a request to hire H.R. Green to look at the pros and cons of contracting out operations at the Water Pollution Control Facility versus continuing as is with city staff. The facility has been without a superintendent for 18 months with current staff picking up the position’s responsibilities.

Councilman Brian Morgan originally proposed the idea, though by the end of the debate at Monday’s work session, he had resigned to the fact that the motion would not pass.

“I wanted to make sure we have someone else looking at everything that wasn’t going to benefit one way or the other,” he said. “To me, this is just the responsible thing to do.”

But Councilman Mitch Niner asked, “if it’s not broke, why do we got to try to fix it, folks?”

He said he doesn’t understand why the city would look at contracting out services when a current employee is taking the test to obtain the Grade IV Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators Certificate this month, a requirement for the superintendent position.

When WPCFs are contracted out, he said, it’s because they’re outdated and running on fines — “and we’re not doing either one.”

“I’m not interested in using the employees down there as a bargaining chip to figure out what to pay the superintendent,” he said. “It doesn’t take a scholar to figure out that [the position] is a little low on pay and is probably the reason we’re not getting applicants. Do you realize that entities across this nation would just die for a facility like we have and a staff like we have? And we’re willing just to throw it all away? It just amazes me.”

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