City of Long Beach
Public Information Office
411 W. Ocean Blvd,
Long Beach, CA 90802
Today, the Board of Water Commissioners (Water Board) voted to support a possible merger of the City’s Water Department and natural gas utility. Within the coming months, the city manager will review with the City Council, the Water Board’s action and the potential steps the City Council could choose to take to advance a possible merger.
“Our City Council over the years has asked us to continue to review our processes and services to find ways to eliminate duplications, create efficiencies and find cost savings,” said City Manager Patrick H. West. “Combining the Gas and Water utilities under one umbrella does exactly this while creating enhanced and streamlined services for customers. It would be beneficial to all involved.”
Currently the City’s gas and water utilities are managed as separate operations, but provide services to the same base of Long Beach residents and businesses, with the gas utility also providing services to Signal Hill. By merging the two operations, customers would see seamless service delivery by one, unified City department. A consolidation of the City’s gas, water and sewer utilities could deliver a number of possible benefits to customers, including and not limited to greater resources available for emergency response purposes; more efficient and cost-effective operations; and increased coordination of construction activities in city streets to reduce impacts to residents.
“The issue of consolidation has been the subject of extensive discussion among board members, the city manager, and the mayor,” said Robert Shannon, president of the Board of Water Commissioners. “Notably, Long Beach is the only city in California which separately manages and operates two municipal utilities. On balance, we believe that the City's ratepayers stand to gain from this merger.”
Should the two operations merge, rate adjustments for gas, water, and sewer services will be considered in a holistic manner by a new Utilities Commission. Consolidation of the two utilities will have no direct financial impact upon the City’s General Fund revenues as the legal restrictions of the utilities’ funds are unchanged whether the utilities are operated separately, or if they are consolidated.
While there are some job classifications that are unique to each department due to technical differences, there will be many areas in which employees will be provided increased opportunities to cross train and learn new job skills. Expectations are that a merger will provide long-term efficiencies, but not have short-term impacts on employees in either of the current departments.
In addition to a potential merger of the two utilities, the City will be changing the name of the Gas and Oil Department to the Energy Resources Department in order to better reflect the current global, State and local views regarding energy resources and climate change mitigation.
“This moment in the City’s energy history has brought with it new challenges as well as new opportunities,” said Department Director, Bob Dowell. “The Energy Resources Department will continue to reinforce incorporating technological developments to improve efficiencies and reduce emissions and other environmental impacts.”
In line with: the spirit of the Paris Climate Accord, the comprehensive global initiative that aims to reduce the threat of climate change; and California’s Cap and Trade Program, a long-term approach to improving the environment; Long Beach has, and will continue to develop programs and initiatives that bolster the City’s economy while reducing negative impacts to our environment. The Department already considers environmental impacts and mitigation efforts in the work that they do; however, now they will carry a name that is better suited for their operations.
About the City of Long Beach
Home to approximately 470,000 people, the multiple award-winning and innovative City of Long Beach offers all the world-class amenities of a large metropolitan city while maintaining a strong sense of individual and diverse neighborhoods nestled together along the California coast. Long Beach is home to the Queen Mary, Aquarium of the Pacific, several museums and theaters, a highly-rated school district, Long Beach Airport, the Port of Long Beach, as well as many award-winning City departments such as Health, Parks, Recreation and Marine, Development Services and more. The City also has a highly-respected university and city college, two historic ranchos, five hospitals, five golf courses, 170 parks, miles of beaches, marinas, bike paths, and a Bike Share program.