City, Citizens reaches understanding of utilities transfer

After months of researching and planning, the City of Westfield announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Citizens Energy Group for the transfer of the city’s water and wastewater utilities.

While the final agreement must be approved by the Westfield City Council and the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, Mayor Andy Cook explained that the process to transfer utilities will be a long one with several community meetings to inform the public before any action by the council takes place.

“With enormous development of our city on the horizon, outsourcing management or ownership of certain water and wastewater assets could enable the city to plan for our growth more efficiently,” he said.

The approximately $91 million in proceeds of the transfer will be used to pay off 100 percent of the city’s utility infrastructure debt ($45 million) and fund much-needed capital infrastructure projects, including roundabouts at high-traffic intersections and improvements to Westfield’s trail system, including the Monon Trail and Midland Trace.

“In the next five years, Westfield’s growth is expected to continue, with more businesses attracted by improvements to U.S. 31, the addition of Grand Park and our world-class school system,” said Cook. “The transfer of our utilities will allow us to pay off our debt, invest in needed improvements to relieve congestion and improve access, all while partnering with an experienced and trusted utility partner that will provide outstanding customer service and operational savings to hold down future water rate increases.”

Cook announced in April that the city was exploring the idea of transferring the water and wastewater utilities to a qualified operator. As part of the public bidding process, Westfield issued a Request for Proposals and had three private systems bid. The evaluation team negotiated the best bid package of the three proposals.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to expand our service to the growing Westfield community. By creating Citizens Utilities of Westfield, an integrated water, wastewater and gas utility, we will provide outstanding customer service as we ensure Westfield has the water supply and utility infrastructure it needs to continue growing,” said Carey Lykins, president and CEO of Citizens Energy Group.

Lykins emphasized that Citizens is committed to Westfield’s future development.

“As we have shown with Citizens Gas of Westfield, efficiencies available by being associated with Citizens Energy Group will help hold down rate increases as the community and the utility infrastructure continues to expand,” he said. “Citizens’ diverse water resources and regional water supply planning will ensure Westfield has the water supplies necessary for a growing population and economic development.”

Citizens and the city have agreed that no Westfield employee will lose employment as result of the utility transfer. Citizens plans to provide pay and benefits to Westfield employees that are competitive with their current compensation package and that of similarly situated Citizens’ employees – upon completing pre-employment hiring requirements.