The Transition Manager of Chestermere Utilities Incorporated (CUI), Rick Quail, presented a progress update on the state of disassembling CUI by the end of 2019 during the April 2 council meeting.
Exploring the municipalization of CUI, keeping CUI as a shell company, or investigating partnership opportunities have taken longer than residents want because CUI has huge assets, contracts, staff, infrastructure, operations, and financial obligations, Quail said.
“Transitioning the company is complex. City council wants to be sure it’s done right, and those decisions don’t end up costing citizens in the long run,” Quail said.
Chestermere City council does recognize that residents are frustrated with high utility rates and service delivery. The goal is to provide a long-term utility rate stability, so residents don’t experience extreme variations to their bill, he added.
The CUI outcome can’t happen soon enough for residents, Mayor Marshall Chalmers said.
“We get it, we hear it, but we have to make sure we do this right,” he said.
Although dismantling CUI is a complicated process, the plan is for all services provided by CUI to be outsourced or reorganized by the end of the year.
“The company as it currently stands will cease exist,” Quail said.
He added the proposed future infrastructure of water, wastewater, and storm water is to enhance a partnership with EPCOR or in-source the services that are offered.
Curbside garbage, recycling, and organic pickup will be outsourced to a third-party service, while the city will be taking over operation and management of the recycling depot, and assuming responsibility for the engineering support functions associated with CUI.
After CUI is dissembled, some staff may become municipal employees to help oversee the delivery of utility services.
“The other CUI staffers will be provided with a fair conclusion to their employment. CUI’s assets will either be transferred to the city or disposed of,” Quail said.
It’s crucial that the city examines all options for insourcing and outsourcing services to ensure residents get the best value.
In order to achieve this council has directed CUI to stop operating with the original business model that would continue to generate additional debt while pursuing new projects. City council is investigating having future projects built by the development community.
“This would lower the debt the city would need to absorb,” Quail said.
Quail believe there is no other way to dismantle CUI faster without comprising integrity, commitments that have been made to current CUI employees, and the legal process.
“We’re not going to compromise standards to expedient and giddy-up, when it could result in a giddy-back, and that’s what we fear,” Quail said.
“We’re going to do it right, and we’re going to do it in an expeditious manner,” he added.
Councilor Ritesh Narayan said he understands there is a lot of frustration in the community regarding the future of CUI. He feels that considering how large the corporation is, that the transition process is going well.
“I’m confidently optimistic by the end of 2019, most of it should be sorted out,” Narayan said.