Commerce appears ready to contract out the operations of its water plant.
Citing inadequate maintenance and the lack of qualified personnel, city manager Pete Pyrzenski recommended to the city council at its Monday night work session that the city contract with ESG Operations, Inc. While he presented no cost figures, Pyrzenski insisted that privatizing the operation will save the city money. The department’s employees, he said, will be hired by ESG, which is based in Macon.
The matter will be on the agenda for the council’s Dec. 16 meeting at 6 p.m. at the Commerce Civic Center. The council asked Pyrzenski to set up a meeting before then between the council and the company to get further information.
In summarizing the situation in the materials sent to the council prior to the meeting, the city manager wrote: “The water plant has suffered a major setback in the last six months, causing the city to take swift actions in ensuring the proper operation and compliance. A temporary solution was implemented, and the plant is now stable. A decision must now be made for the future of the plant with emphasis on the required leadership and necessary skill set to effectively operate it. Current personnel are not qualified.”
Pyrzenski fired the water superintendent this past summer over “personnel issues.”
On Monday night, he said the plant was “running to failure,” citing lack of training, a total lack of maintenance and problems with the chemical balance.
“I couldn’t afford to continue and allow any more time to elapse because of the situation,” he said.
As for ESG, Pyrzenski insisted that the company will provide the lowest operational cost so the city does not “lose the value of ownership.”
“We start to capitalize immediately because of how they conduct their business,” he said.
He also boasted of the company’s “personal and corporate integrity,” its “technology-based solutions” and its preventative maintenance program.
“We have literally done zero maintenance,” Pyrzenski told the council.
The plant has five employees who, the manager said, will “transition to ESG” and whose pay “will probably go up.”
The manager also told the council that although the city has a contract with a company to maintain its water plants, the company has not performed — even though the city paid for services.
Ward 2 councilman Darren Owensby suggested that accepting payment and not performing amounted to “stealing.”