As the Trump administration encourages the use of public-private partnerships in addressing infrastructure issues, you may question whether a P3 is the right choice for your community. The National League of Cities’ CitiesSpeak explores three ways P3 can benefit communities – by stretching the budget, allowing flexibility and shortening project timelines, and providing access to innovation not otherwise available. P3s can allow a municipality to share the risk and responsibility while retaining ownership of infrastructure assets.
The City of Hamilton, Ontario, has surpassed more than 10,000 enrollments since the Service Line Warranties of Canada (SLWC) program rolled out in September 2014. The program offers affordable repair protection to homeowners for broken, clogged or leaking water, sewer and in-home plumbing lines. The City of Hamilton was the first city in Canada to introduce the program to its residents, joining a family of what is now more than 300 municipalities in North America, including 15 municipalities in Canada, offering the program to homeowners.
“We are continually thrilled at the growth of our partnership with the City of Hamilton,” said Philip E. Riley, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer for Service Line Warranties of Canada. “SLWC is committed to providing exceptional customer service and peace of mind to the City of Hamilton and its residents. We are especially happy to be able to provide an important service to thaw frozen lines during cold winters. We know it’s important to the City of Hamilton that their residents have access to a warranty that can provide reliable, safe service when it’s needed most.”
Service Line Warranties of Canada offers an optional protection program providing coverage for repairs to broken, clogged or leaking water lines, sewer lines and in-home plumbing lines. This program is only available through partnerships with cities and municipalities. Warranty protection is offered to homeowners at an affordable price for failures due to normal wear and tear, including, importantly, the thawing of frozen lines, which is an important feature during difficult winters.
“Hamilton residents have responded well to this program,” said Mike Zegarac, General Manager, Finance and Corporate Services for the City of Hamilton. “This optional program through Service Line Warranties of Canada had provided Hamilton residential property owners another option for the management of repairs to their service lines when needed, in addition to valuable access to a qualified, licensed contractor network who perform needed repairs according to local code.”
For more information on how to bring this program to your community, visit www.utilitysp.net.
Welcome to the spring campaign. Whether your city is a new or older partner, we’d like to provide you with some information to maximize homeowner participation.
Utility Service Partners, Inc. (USP) has numerous resources at your disposal to help make your campaign a success, from press release samples to web banners. Your Regional Account Manager and Business Development Specialist contacts can provide these to you upon request.
If your city is using social media, our partner and customer social media accounts have a wealth of information that you are welcome to share on your city’s web pages, blogs and newsletters. Be sure to like and follow the USP, SLWA and SLWC accounts for up-to-date information, homeowner tips and tricks, and industry news.
If you have a city newsletter or blog, consider publishing an article announcing or reminding residents about the program and its benefits. Need some content? Our marketing team is happy to help you prepare ready-to-publish, city-specific material. Contact Travis Levers at firstname.lastname@example.org, your Regional Account Manager or your Business Development Specialist today to request information.
Our team is happy to help your city make this campaign the best one ever. If you have any questions or need information or assistance – just contact us and we’ll do the rest.
Thank you for being a valued partner of Utility Service Partners, Inc. We look forward to serving your homeowners this year!
When a customer is experiencing an issue with their plumbing, it is important that the person who arrives at their door is someone they can trust to get the job done right. The National League of Cities (NLC) Service Line Warranty Program, administered by Utility Service Partners, Inc. (USP), utilizes contractors from the same areas we partner with. Why is it so important that we use local contractors? Let’s take a look at a few of the many reasons to stay local:
Local contractors are trusted and are known members of the community
Since our contractors are already operating within the community, residents frequently recognize the name of the plumber and are more willing to allow them to enter their home. In many cases, a resident has already used the plumber in the past to complete a repair or will utilize them in the future when a non-warranty-related plumbing need arises.
This trust carries over to the city as well. When a contractor is licensed in a local community and conducts business there for an extended period of time, they become familiar with what is expected to complete a repair properly and to code. A local contractor is more likely to pull the correct permits, know the correct materials required, and have a relationship with the inspectors who close the permits.
Using a contractor that is local saves time
Since we use only local contractors, they are able to respond to problems quicker. Whenever a customer has a problem, they contact our claim center and receive a call back from the local contractor within sixty minutes to set up an appointment. Customers are able to get back to their normal routine and don’t have to spend hours trying to find a reputable plumber, contact them, and schedule a time that works for everybody. Our local contractors make every customer a priority, and in some cases repairs are completed in just a few hours. In cases where underground lines must be marked and permits pulled, a repair can take 48 to 72 hours to complete.
City partners are able to benefit from this time saving as well. When a resident is able to get service from a reliable local plumber and the work is completed in an efficient time period, residents are much less likely to call and complain about the contractors to city officials. City inspectors are able to work closely with the plumbers to make both opening and closing of permits a seamless process. When city employees spend less time dealing with issues from residents or contractors, they save money.
All of the dollars are staying in the community
When USP uses a local contractor, it is helping contribute to the growth of that local economy. USP will pay the local contractor for the work they complete; in turn, that contractor is likely to spend that money on supplies and other costs of living within the city. The city collects taxes on those local wages, and collects fees associated with pulling the proper permits. In many partner cities, the increase in work leads the local contractors to hire additional resources, which continues improving the employment opportunities within the community.
Utilizing local contractors is just one of the many ways that the NLC Service Line Warranty Program works to build peace of mind, one community, and one partner, at a time.
As I travel around the country working with cities on a variety of projects, I see a trend evolving around public-private partnerships that is quite different than my experiences as a public official. In 1985, when I entered public office, the idea of working with private enterprise to advance the mission of government was viewed quite skeptically, if at all. Companies that approached cities to perform services were often shown the door rather quickly. In some cases, department heads would not even bring these opportunities to upper management, sensing that if a private company could do a service that had traditionally been done by the city, it would somehow reflect on the abilities of the department head or their staff. Additionally, if the typical city of the 1980s needed additional revenue or expertise, they could simply add it in the next budget cycle in the form of a tax increase or a personnel adjustment and it would be added to what was known as ‘municipal government.
Times have changed. Adding revenue in the form of a tax increase is probably the last thing that modern cities are proposing and adding personnel is also difficult as most cities are becoming ‘lean and mean’ with little additional manpower in the offing. Technology is also making this ‘80s mentality a thing of the past. When I came into city government, technology consisted of some rudimentary computers and a fax machine with paper that had a waxy texture and rolled around on the table in tightly formed rolls!
My first experience with public-private partnerships was the transferring of municipal waste services to a private company with the city still doing billing and fielding the calls for service. Who would have thought that companies were willing to take on one of the dirtiest tasks in the city? But it worked and now it is commonplace for private companies to handle all municipal waste from household to landfill or processing plant. Legal and engineering services were another natural area for firms with specific expertise to take on tasks previously performed by city attorneys and engineers. These seemed like natural and logical extensions of city services and the process took place with little or no objections.
Fast forward to 2014 and we see a plethora of firms offering to take on city services or work with cities to offer services to citizens that were unheard of just 30 years ago. How do we distinguish the good from the bad and when do we make the decision to ‘untether’ a service from traditional city control? The key points when working with firms to offer these services seem to be logical:
- What is the background and expertise of the firm? When you are putting the name and reputation of the city behind any service or offering, the quality and expertise of the company are paramount. Do they have experience in doing these types of deals and are they recognized by oversight organizations like the Better Business Bureau or similar groups?
- Is the service or offering clear and transparent? When entering into public-private partnerships, is there a full disclosure to the governing body and the citizens? Citizen resistance to public-private partnerships is generally focused on the vague or confusing aspects of the services or offering. Open and transparent dealings generally receive the best results.
- Does the city and/or citizens get good value for the investment? If the city or citizen is not gaining value from the partnership, it makes little sense to outsource or partner with a private entity. Simply entering a partnership where the company is the only winner is shortsighted and misses the basic tenant of good government where the citizen comes first.
It is definitely a new day in government and public-private partnerships appear to be a common part of modern government. Finding the right partner who is offering the right service is the key to making this work. Citizens have embraced this new role of government and look to their leaders to make good judgments on their behalf. No longer is the expectation that government will provide the service, but that government is doing in-house what makes sense and, when needed, finding partners who can get the job done in a professional and ethical manner.
Jim Hunt is an Advisor with the National League of Cities Service Line Warranty Program. He is also the founder of Amazing Cities, an organization dedicated to excellence and leadership in government. Mr. Hunt writes, speaks and consults on issues that affect local government. He served for 27 years in public office and was President of the National League of Cities in 2006.