County begins exploring privatization of utilities

Citrus County is looking at the possibility of privatizing its utilities.

The process was begun today with the award of work to Woolpert Inc., a private engineering and consulting firm.

The County Commission today unanimously approved $24,800 for the firm to take an incremental approach to the project. The firm will will take a look at the way the county is currently doing its work, compare that to national standards and then make recommendations. There will be three decision points at which the county can pull the plug on any further movement toward privatization.

Brad Thorpe presented the plan to the board, which had previously asked him to explore the possibility of privatizing county utilities. "This is a major effort," Thorpe said. "We're looking for performance and reduction in price." Thrope said that it all boils down to efficiency, in terms of operations, acquistion of assets and possible mergers with the county's cities."

The move toward privatization could affect the future of how utilities will be handled, he added.

Woolpert, a Dayton, Ohio-based firm, has done a number of similar jobs in the southeast, to include Tampa Bay and in Martin County. Should the county decide to proceed with privatization, the firm will also help develop a Request For Quote, and then help in the interview of any companies and eventual selection of a firm.