Davenport Aldermen Consider Privatizing Services - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Davenport Aldermen Consider Privatizing Services

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Privatizing city services. As costs go up, it's an option communities across the country are considering.  And Davenport city leaders are looking at the possibility as well, continuing the conversation at a work session Saturday morning.

"As you know, Davenport is an old river town," Alderman Gene Meeker says. "Our sewer system has aged. It's very costly. And so we're just looking at other alternatives at this point." Looking at what hundreds of cities across the country have already done, looking at privatizing service. With residents looking at a 15 percent sewer fee increase, and the city facing $62 million in capital improvements to the system over the next six years, alderman are exploring the possibilities. Meeker says, "It's important for us to get the information, just to see if in fact it might be a good deal for us."

Projects, maintenance and equipment mean the sewer system accounts for $17 million of the city's $189 million budget. Finance Director Brandon Wright says Iowa American Water made a soft offer of $40 million for the system a few years ago. But when it comes to value, aldermen say they need to see a firm number. "Easy estimate," Alderman Bill Boom says, "I bet it would cost a million dollars just to find out what price to sell at. We have other more important things to do right now."

One of those, balancing the budget. That has aldermen considering privatizing golf courses as well. Boom says, "I think our golf courses are great. And we keep putting money into them. And the trouble is, they attract less and less people." Wright says that's a nationwide trend. Right now, Davenport's three golf courses account for just under two million budget dollars, and are running an $800,000 deficit. At the same time, Meeker says, "That's one of our basic functions as a city is to provide the utilities and provide the streets, the parks, public safety and all."

All of it is up for discussion. But aldermen say, not anything they want to rush into. The city council work session starts at 8:30 Saturday morning in council chambers.