On March 21, we completed 90 days of services since we first began operations in Bayonne, NJ. Last December, we announced the initiation of our partnership with KKR for water and wastewater system operations in the City of Bayonne, NJ, using United Water’s award winning new SOLUTION℠ model to address Bayonne’s water infrastructure needs. SOLUTION℠ is designed to provide municipalities an option to upgrade and operate water infrastructure more efficiently and help meet increasing environmental and water quality standards. In turn, SOLUTION℠ attracts new, long-term capital from private equity partners. The new resources generated can then be used specifically to upgrade water systems and also to help ease pressure on municipal balance sheets, freeing cities to invest in other public services.
As a part of this joint venture with KKR, United Water acquired a 40-year water and wastewater concession from the Bayonne Municipal Utilities Authority (BMUA). Under the contract, BMUA continues to maintain control of rates charged to customers, the ownership of the water and wastewater system and oversee compliance adherence and customer service performances.
The last three months have been very exciting and important for our operations team at Bayonne. We asked our Bayonne team to talk about their experiences and learnings so far, and this is what they shared with us.
Employee Health and Safety First: We spent the first week of operations almost solely concentrating on health and safety training of our team members. The Bayonne management team has made a commitment to all the employees that its first goal is to ensure that everyone has a safe and healthy work environment. This commitment, in turn, has made it easier for all the employees to understand and adhere to consistent standard operating procedures across the system.
Significant Transformation: The transformation at the facilities has been very significant over the first 90 days. The Oak Street facility today looks dramatically different than what it did on Day 1. We have invested time and resources in improving the overall quality of the plant by clearing out operational areas, removing clutter and getting rid of non-essential machines and materials. These immediate but critical changes have led to greater level of pride and comfort among all of us. The leadership team continues to share investment and improvement plans with the employees so that they are aware of the priorities, efforts and areas of focus.
Employee and Community Support: Our team is very lucky to have the support of all our employees and the encouragement from our local community. The former municipal employees have been our biggest asset since we started operations and we continue to receive their complete support. Moreover, after the transition, the reaction and feedback we have received to new methods of operations, have been very positive and encouraging.
Key Learning: We are formulating our Asset Management Plan, setting priorities accordingly and will adjust our investment program to meet emerging needs.
Besides ensuring safe and reliable public water services to the City of Bayonne, our SOLUTION℠ model has also played a key role in the first upgrade in five years of the city’s bond rating. Earlier this March, Moody’s Investors Service upgraded Bayonne from Baa1 with negative outlook to Baa1 with stable outlook.
Congratulations Bayonne team!