Utility Service Partners, Inc.

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Why do we need Public-Private Partnerships?

Should cities and municipalities enter into partnerships with private companies? Public entities and private companies have been successfully collaborating for years via advisory boards, stakeholder groups and governance bodies to leverage the collective experience, knowledge and expertise of a broader group. From infrastructure renewal programs in Louisville, Kentucky, to highway safety patrols in Pennsylvania and park programs in Nashville, Tennessee, for many cities, Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are an alternative worth pursuing. Cities, towns and municipalities across the country are facing tremendous challenges in an environment of increasing demand on aging infrastructure, struggling against reduced budgets.

According to a report by the National League of Cities (NLC), “Coming into 2013, cities were experiencing the sixth year in a row of declining revenues.” While there are signs of improvement, the report states that “cities are still struggling in significant ways, signaling that growth is not keeping pace at a level that is needed for a sustained recovery.”

A few years ago, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) launched a “pilot infrastructure renewal program,” in Louisville, Kentucky, hiring a road crew to fill potholes, which were stenciled with the KFC brand.

“Budgets are tight for cities across the country, and finding funding for needed road repairs is a continuing challenge,” Jerry Abramson, Louisville Metro Mayor, said in the release. “It’s great to have a concerned corporation like KFC create innovative private/public partnerships like this pothole refresh program.”

If you are traveling down the Pennsylvania Turnpike, you may have noticed the “State Farm Safety Patrol.” This PPP brings together two groups in a partnership that simply makes sense, given their mutual interest in highway safety.

And San Diego, California, has been described as a model for private sector partnership. The city partnered with Cardiac Science, a developer of cardiology products and services. Cardiac Science became the city’s ”Automated External Defibrillator Partner” in 2001.

According to an article in Athletic Business, ”the revenue from that partnership operates and sustains San Diego Project Heart Beat, the city’s Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) Program, which strives to improve the survivability of sudden cardiac arrest victims by making AEDs as accessible as fire extinguishers in city and county facilities, healthcare facilities, schools, businesses and tourist attractions.”

According to the project’s website, San Diego Project Heart Beat has helped save 107 lives.

As these examples demonstrate, PPPs are often a way for the city to work with a private partner to deliver a program that addresses a specific need in the community. The NLC Service Line Warranty Program was created from the need to provide an affordable service line repair solution to homeowners, educate the public on service line responsibilities and help with water conservation efforts.

Utility Service Partners (USP) is committed to providing valuable service line protection at a fair market price, helping our municipal partners educate residents about their service line responsibilities and ensuring every interaction with customers and city stakeholders exceeds expectations. Service Line Warranties of America, USP’s consumer brand, is the honored recipient of the 2013 Western Pennsylvania Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics.

The NLC Service Line Warranty Program is a uniquely co-branded program between the program’s administrator, Utility Service Partners, and municipalities. The power of municipal co-branding is that it serves to build confidence in the quality of the program, promoting a higher adoption rate. Consistent with NLC’s public policy initiatives to address the national problem of aging water and sewer infrastructure along with the associated water quality issues, this program does not endorse the marketing of unrelated products.

Jim Hunt, past NLC President and founder of Amazing Cities, stated, “As I now meet with cities in all parts of the country, many are excited to look at this Public-Private Partnership and provide the opportunity for their citizens to be protected from catastrophic expense associated with failed water and sewer lines. The National League of Cities continues to provide quality programs to member cities, which address critical problems for our citizens.”

Although hampered by misconceptions, leadership in many cities has sought such innovative partnerships for one simple reason: because the people want timely and efficient service.


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Summer Plumbing Tips

Summer is a great time to encourage homeowners to perform a maintenance check on their plumbing. Water usage soars during the summer months from heat and summer-time activities. As we play and swim, many families will find themselves with a few extra loads of laundry per week and maybe a few extra showers. Homeowners can start the season off right with a quick check throughout the home and property to conserve water and avoid a hefty repair bill.

In the Home

  • Check washing machine hoses for bulges, leaks and cracks. Washing machine hoses should be replaced every three years.
  • Be sure your washing machine is at least four inches from the wall so hoses won’t kink and damage.
  • Do a thorough cleaning on your dryer lint trap regularly to avoid buildup.
  • Don’t send grease, fats or food down the drain. When washing foods like corn, be sure the strings don’t go down the drain and clog your pipes.
  • Heat and humidity will cause ducts to create condensation, which can easily back up drains if they are not clear. Check for leaks and condensation on your pipes regularly.
  • Clean up your garbage disposal by placing a cup of ice inside. Then, while running cold water, turn on the unit. Repeat a few times to ensure it’s clean. Then place a capful of vegetable oil down the disposal, which will act as a natural lubricant.

Outdoors

  • Inspect hoses and outdoor faucets for leaks and cracks.
  • Don’t just turn off the hose nozzle; turn it off at the connection. A leaky hose could burst under pressure if water is still pumping, causing water loss and ruining your equipment.
  • Set up a rainwater barrel to collect water for your plants. This not only helps conserve water for the environment, but will help you save money on your water bill.

Extended Trips

  • Going away for a while? Turn off the water and turn down the temperature. This will save energy while you’re away and in the event of a leak or break, prevent a bigger mess from occurring.


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Don’t pollute your drinking water

handwashDo your homeowners know where tap water comes from? Most communities rely on lakes and streams to provide fresh drinking water, sending it through a rigorous process to purify the water before it reaches the tap. However, homeowners could be unintentionally contaminating their drinking water every time it rains, they wash the car or they use the garden hose.

Stormwater drains (different from sewer systems) return rainwater to lakes, streams and treatment plants in an effort to make use of every drop of this precious resource. Storm drains are an important part the of community that helps keep the public safe from rainwater flooding carrying the extra water to a local stream, river or lake. Unfortunately, sometimes homeowners mistake these drains for sewer systems and dump chemicals into the systems, contaminating the water that will eventually end up in homes. As a city official, you can help homeowners prevent pollutants from entering your storm drains with these simple tips:

  • Dispose of pet waste in the garbage. When left in the yard, hard rains can carry the waste to storm drains.
  • Never apply pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides before it rains because the chemicals will wash away into the storm drains.
  • Drain pools or other large tubs of water into sanitary sewer systems where the water can be properly treated.
  • Dispose of chemicals properly and don’t dump them on the ground or into sewers.
  • Don’t rinse a chemical spill with a hose. Use absorbent materials like kitty litter, which can be disposed of properly.
  • Don’t wash your car near storm drains – take it to a car wash or consider using biodegradable soap.


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Don’t let a home emergency bury your residents in debt

sad worried man in stress with piggy bank in bad financial situationEmergencies never happen at a convenient time – it’s when you’re traveling, planning for your wedding or sitting down to a holiday dinner. Additionally, emergencies can often bring with them a very costly expense that many homeowners are unprepared to cover, which can force people to deplete savings accounts, borrow money or take out high-interest cash advances or emergency loans.

A recent survey from Bankrate.com revealed that only 38% of respondents said they could cover an unexpected expense with cash on hand in their checking and savings accounts. Additionally, the survey revealed that fewer than 4 in 10 have enough cash to handle any substantial cost outside of their budget. When faced with a financial emergency – are your residents prepared?

As a city official, you have the option to bring a protection plan program to your residents that can help in the event of a home repair emergency. While homeowners insurance covers many typical emergencies, there are events such as water and sewer line failures that are outside traditional coverage policies. It’s a common misconception among homeowners that these lines will never break, but the reality is nothing lasts forever. Many factors such as ground shifting, extreme weather, normal wear and tear and tree root intrusion can cause the lines to crack, deteriorate and break. Repairs to these lines, often requiring digging, can also be very costly and could run into the street, requiring permits, traffic control and paving – which is still the homeowners responsibility.

Educating homeowners on their responsibilities and the types of policies available to cover expensive home repairs, such as the Service Line Warranties of America water and sewer line warranties, can help in the homeowner’s time of need. For only a few dollars a month, homeowners can be protected through a voluntary protection plan in the event of an emergency, leaving their savings account funds for what’s really important – their family. There’s no cost to the city to participate in this important program that addresses aging infrastructure, water conservation and ground pollution.

Don’t take our word for it though. In a recent interview with Corporate Review, hear from Kansas City, Missouri, Councilman John Sharp and a homeowner about their experience with the program and how the warranty program saved homeowner Ms. Shively from a very expensive repair bill.