Grand Stand Water and Sewer Authority
Rate and Financial Consulting
RFC has assisted the Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority (GSWSA) since the early 1990’s in providing a variety of utility rate and financial planning assistance. Our most recent assistance included an assessment of the reasonableness, affordability, and competitiveness of the GSWSA current and historical water and wastewater rates and impact fees. This assessment included the determination of annualized residential rate impacts for a national survey group of water and wastewater utilities from 1999 through 2009. The user rate information for the survey groups were based on data compiled by RFC as part of its biennial Water and Wastewater Rate Survey.
As part of the assessment, the GSWSA utility rates were benchmarked against the national survey group’s rates and the annualized national rate of inflation during that same period to determine whether the utility’s rate performance fell within a range of categories which included exceptional, unfavorable, or favorable. Additionally, the GSWSA’s current utility rates and impact fees were compared with other local utility rates and evaluated to assess the affordability of the rates and impact fees in relation to the median household income for Horry County. The 2009 assessment was a follow up to our original assessment from 1994 through 2004.
GSWSA updates its strategic and long-term capital improvement plan every five years. Since the last plan update, customers and revenues had grown 30%. The customer mix also changed significantly with the purchase of the City of Myrtle Beach Water and Wastewater Plants in 2006. This acquisition alone increased revenues over 40% and increased the number of employees by 24%. Furthermore, GSWSA acquired several service areas and was continuing to expand rapidly through growth within its chartered service area and through acquisitions outside its service area. In addition to its rapid growth, GSWSA was anticipating the retirement of several senior-level managers within a three to seven year time frame. With this in mind, GSWSA was completing a comprehensive succession plan to ensure that strong, competent, and capable leaders are identified and trained to replace its retiring leaders.
Some of the objectives of this assessment were to ensure GSWSA’s strategic and long-term capital program was focused on the EUM framework and to develop recommendations that would move GSWSA’s management practices closer to the ideal EUM state. Sub-objectives, which are common for all EUM Assessment projects, were to provide:
- A framework to measure what is important
- A focus on continuous improvement
- Transparency for stakeholders
- A forum for team building and communication
- A focus and orientation for the organization on the EUM Attributes
- Commitment to implementing the 5 Keys to Management Success
RFC staff worked with GSWSA leadership to conduct a series of workshops and self-assessments with the GSWSA management team and lower-level interdisciplinary employee teams to assess the organization’s’ readiness for adoption of the Effective Utility Management framework and to develop specific measures and improvement opportunities. In addition, RFC consultants reviewed and suggested improvements to the following GSWSA processes:
- Strategic planning
- Succession planning
- Performance measurement
- Asset management
- Use of teams to address process improvement and project implementation
Some of the benefits and results of the project are:
- Enhanced communication between functions at the senior level
- Increased awareness and an across-the-board acceptance of the need to embrace the 5 Keys to Management Success and to focus on the 10 EUM Attributes.
- Understanding of the perspectives and concerns of employees, many of whom were previously employed by an acquired system
- Improved ability to prioritize asset management and capital improvement programs
- Direction to develop its new strategic plan in a manner that addresses the EUM Attributes
- Prioritized suggestions for improved performance
- A new focus on a limited number of key measures
- Strengthened position as a leader in the water sector industry in the coastal Carolina area and nationally