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The prospect of consolidation has never been better

Feather Publishing
Editorial Opinion
11/22/2013
 

It’s time for the American Valley to consolidate its two water and sewer services districts into one.

The idea isn’t new. The East Quincy and Quincy districts have been talking about it for more than two decades. Unfortunately, the talks sometimes resembled bar-room brawls more than genuine negotiations. For years it seemed the districts’ respective boards of directors simply didn’t trust each other.

But times have changed. The two boards are no longer made up of Hatfields and McCoys.

The attitudes and makeup of the current boards have never been better for making this important change — a change that should have happened years ago.

The bottom line is the American Valley, with fewer than 5,000 residents, is just too small to support two services districts. Joining forces to become the American Valley Community Services District could ultimately save valley rate-payers money — especially if the aging treatment plant in Quincy, which both districts use, has to be replaced.

Everything is in place to quickly move forward on this idea. The American Valley Community Services Authority is already in place. The two boards regularly meet as the AVCSA to discuss issues that affect both districts. A vote by the AVCSA to resume the consolidation would be the first necessary step in the process.

The next step would be for the East Quincy district to call off its search for a new general manager. Quincy general manager Larry Sullivan is an experienced, competent, trusted leader and would be a solid choice to manage the new, combined district.

It was the suggestion by the Quincy board that Sullivan manage a consolidated district that led to the most recent unraveling of consolidation talks nearly three years ago. The East Quincy board, at that time, viewed Sullivan as a symbol of a hostile takeover and not a consolidation. The East Quincy board said recommending Sullivan showed a lack of respect for its own GM and board. Again, the East Quincy people didn’t trust their neighbors on the other side of the hill.

But that East Quincy general manager is gone. And the prospect of consolidation appears more realistic than ever.

Both boards are more concerned about protecting the valley’s ratepayers than protecting their own turf.

The next step would be for East Quincy to scrap plans to build its own wastewater treatment plant. The American Valley doesn’t need two sewage plants. It certainly can’t afford to pay for two of them. The valley will be better served by upgrading the current plant or combining the districts’ money to replace it if the state says it can’t be fixed.

A consolidation would make the valley better armed to deal with either scenario.

A merger could eventually cost a couple of board members from each district their seats. But the consolidation wouldn’t cost either district’s workers their jobs. The two districts agreed a long time ago that the consolidated staff would be reduced by attrition and retirements until it was the right size.

Yes, it is time to consolidate the two districts into one. The template is already in place, and so are the board members with the power and willingness to make the consolidation happen.

The move would make the American Valley an even better — and possibly more affordable — place to live.


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