Veolia caves to public protest

I know many of you have followed the Veolia issue for over a year – this seems like a success, right?  However, if I am reading this correctly, Veolia can become a subcontractor with MSD, who is now in charge of “analyzing” the City’s water department.  So stay tuned in!

via Stltoday

October 29, 2013 10:00 am  •  By Nicholas J.C. Pistor npistor@post-dispatch.com 314-436-2239

ST. LOUIS • A controversial contract proposal between the city’s water division and an international water consulting company died on Tuesday when the company dropped itself from consideration.

City Hall, led by Mayor Francis Slay, had said a $250,000 consulting contract with Veolia Water North America was necessary to help reduce costs and keep water rates down for city residents. But the process was colored by heated protests of the company’s environmental and business practices, with some residents worried the company would try to seize the city’s water and reduce its quality.

Slay’s staff on Tuesday told the aldermanic Ways and Means committee that the company had dropped itself from consideration for the contract.

“Veolia Water, the firm that was legitimately selected per ordinance, to help improve the Water Division’s level of efficiency, has decided our business is not worth it,” Mary Ellen Ponder, a representative of Slay, told the committee. “It is not worth the damage to their business. Veolia will not go forward with the contract they were legitimately awarded. Frankly, they can’t be blamed.”

At the time, the committee was discussing a bill by Alderman Terry Kennedy to strike the $250,000 from the Water Division’s budget in an effort to block Veolia.

Despite Veolia’s removal from consideration, the committee approved of the bill by a vote of 5-2.

“The fact of the matter is that Veolia has a terrible track record,” Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed said.

The decision was a major victory for a group called the Dump Veolia Coalition, which has protested the contract throughout the year.

“We applaud the Board of Aldermen for working to protect the public and for taking steps toward open government,” the group said in a statement. “Veolia’s interference in our political process in St. Louis is unacceptable.”

Veolia Water North America, based in Chicago, had spent considerable time and money on winning the contract, flying representatives here to appear before committee meetings and hiring local lobbyist and former Missouri Democratic Party Chairman John Temporiti, a former campaign manager to St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley.

Veolia didn’t respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Slay is now asking the city to work with the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District to analyze the aging infrastructure and find ways to reduce costs in a water system designed for St. Louis when it had a significantly higher population and demand for the resource.

MSD said in a statement on Tuesday that it had reached a verbal agreement with the city to conduct an “operational efficiency review” of the city’s water division.

Previously, Slay had directed Comptroller Darlene Green to sign off on the Veolia expenditure, bypassing explicit approval from the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment, setting off a heated dispute over executive authority and the city’s approval process.

Slay had put the issue on hold in February when he failed to find a majority for approval. Slay had brought it before the board in February because the expenditure wasn’t included in that year’s budget.

Expenditures are approved by the city’s three-person Board of Estimate and Apportionment, made up of the mayor, the comptroller and the board of aldermen president.

But Slay brought the issue directly to Green earlier this month and asked for her signature, saying that the $250,000 was a line item in the overall budget approved by the Board of Aldermen, thus not requiring the board’s approval.

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