FORT WORTH –– A recently appointed Water Utility Task Force will explore ways for the city of Fort Worth to reduce water costs, including the possibility that some water services or management may be privatized.
The task force was approved by the City Council earlier this month, ironically on the same day that Mayor Betsy Price announced that the city's projected budget shortfall will likely surpass $50 million.
The city said it is reviewing a number of different departments but that the water department –– with more than 900 employees –– was the only one big enough to warrant a task force and outside evaluation.
"If there are some services we can provide more effective by outsourcing, than we could definitely move in that direction," said Assistant City Manager Fernando Costa.
Any potential changes are months away, he cautioned. No specific suggestions have been laid out.
Costa also pointed out that any switch-over would only occur if it kept consumer water bills reasonable while also maintaining a high level of service.
The water department provides service to about 1.1 million users in the Fort Worth area.
Terry Miles, who lives near Miller Avenue, isn't sold on the idea of outsourcing any positions.
"If you privatize it, I really get worried about the response time being that good," said Miles, who just last year saw his neighborhood flooded when a pipe burst.
The city water budget operates out of an enterprise fund, not the general fund. But Costa said "It's all public money," and that it was time for the city to look to be more efficent in any way possible in any department.