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Veolia has rich tradition in managing municipal water systems

Veolia Water is a nationally recognized leader in the field of operating municipal water systems.

And come later this month, the company could be operating Sunnyside's water and sewer department.

The Sunnyside City Council is scheduled to decide during its Feb. 28 meeting on whether or not to enter into a private contract with Veolia Water to run the city's water services.

Christie Kaluza of Veolia Water, headquartered in Houston, Texas, said her company serves about 600 municipalities across the country. The company had $600 million in revenues in 2003.

"We really have projects all over the country," said Kaluza.

Close to home in Sunnyside, Veolia Water oversees water services for the communities of Cle Elum, Vancouver and Wilsonville, Ore. Kaluza said Veolia Water has more than 30 municipal contracts on the West Coast, with more than 500 employees.

Veolia Water provides services to more than 14 million people, treating more than 2.2 billion gallons of water and wastewater per day.

Some of the major cities Veolia Water serves include Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, and Tampa Bay.

Kaluza pointed out that Veolia Water won't be taking over any of the city's property, if the Sunnyside City Council does opt to extend the company a contract. Rather, the city will continue to own the facilities with Veolia Water managing the day-to-day operations.

"The city will hire us to operate and maintain the assets," said Kaluza.

Kaluza said Veolia Water won't be implementing any changes in rates or raising additional fees in other areas of operation. She said adjusting water and sewer rates is the job of the City Council.

Kaluza also wanted to dispel the rumor that Veolia Water will be "cleaning house" if the city does decide to privatize services, meaning laying off existing employees.

"We here that a lot," said Kaluza. "That is simply not the case."

Kaluza said for the most part the existing employees are offered contracts with Veolia Water and kept on staff. What will happen, she said, is a project manager will come into Sunnyside to operate the site. The operating manager in Sunnyside, if privatization does occur, will answer to an area manager who is stationed in Vancouver.

Kaluza said many people would be surprised to learn the benefits employees have who work for Veolia Water.

"We have training programs. We have promotion opportunities," said Kaluza.

Kaluza said Veolia Water has other methods at its disposal to be more cost efficient rather than trimming jobs. Kaluza explained the company has a vast array of technology available that will save money in the plant operation.

"This is what we do," said Kaluza. "We have an enormous amount of experience."

Cities gain a variety of benefits from privatizing water services, said Kaluza. She said a lot of the benefits depend on the services a community might need. She said Veolia Water can help communities with such areas as meeting the demand of federal water quality mandates, because it has at its disposal experts in different fields in water management and an array of technology.

Information on Veolia Water can be found on the Internet at www.veoliawaterna.com.

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