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Utility consolidation: City Council certifies election results

MEDIA RELEASE

Dec. 14, 2022

Contact:  Lauren Gold Howland
Public Information Officer
Phone:     (562) 355-1201 
Email:     lauren.howland@lbwater.org

OFFICIAL CONSOLIDATION PROCESS BEGINS

LONG BEACH, CALIF. (DEC. 14, 2022) — The city’s water, sewer and natural gas services will now be provided by one Public Utilities Department following approval by Long Beach voters in the Nov. 8 General Election.

The Long Beach City Council officially certified the election results Tuesday, adopting a change to the city’s charter to create the Public Utilities Department.

Measure BB, approved with more than 63 percent of the vote, consolidates the city’s utilities to improve customer service, reduce impacts to streets through better coordination of pipeline repairs, and achieve cost savings through economies of scale.

The certification of the election results marks the official beginning of the utility consolidation process.

“This is an exciting step for the city of Long Beach that will benefit residents and businesses into the future,” Long Beach Water General Manager Chris Garner said. “I am proud that voters entrusted us to proceed with this long talked-about merger and I look forward to getting started on the consolidation process to improve overall utility services for our customers.”

Long Beach Utilities  

Prior to the passage of Measure BB, water and sewer utilities were provided by the Long Beach Water Department and natural gas services through the city’s Department of Energy Resources.

The Board of Water Commissioners provided oversight for water and sewer while the city manager oversaw natural gas.

The consolidation will bring the three utilities under the Long Beach Public Utilities Department, or Long Beach Utilities, with oversight by one general manager reporting to governing commission.

The consolidation is still in the early stages and more details about the department’s internal operating structure will be determined in the coming months.

The first step in the process will be for the Board of Public Utilities Commissioners to affirm department leadership and ensure continuity of services throughout the consolidation process.

On Jan. 5, 2023, the Board is scheduled to confirm the general manager, assistant general managers and deputy general manager of Long Beach Utilities. Garner is expected to serve as the new department’s general manager.

Customer Confidence

While the consolidation will be a significant internal change, utilities customers will not see much difference in their day-to-day lives. Water, sewer and natural gas services and billing will continue as normal without interruption throughout the transition.

In the long-term, residents and businesses can expect a more streamlined customer service experience, greater access to conservation programs and incentives and clear, consistent communications about their water, sewer and natural gas services.

The consolidation of city utilities is expected to improve operational efficiencies and lead to long-term cost savings, benefiting customers and enhancing the department’s ability to secure funding for larger projects and infrastructure investments.

Credit rating agency Moody’s called the consolidation a credit positive, affirming the departments’ favorable credit ratings.

“While the finances and pledged debt securities for the three utilities will remain separate, the combined entity will provide the utilities with economies of scale, strengthened operating and financial decision-making, and enhanced long-term, coordinated planning for shared goals,” the Moody’s report states.

Utilities Commission

The amended city charter retains the structure of the existing Board of Water Commissioners — renamed the Board of Utilities Commissioners, or the Utilities Commission.

Commissioners are Long Beach residents appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council, and can serve up to two, five-year terms.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on the commission to ensure a seamless transition and continued exceptional customer service for our utility customers,” Cordero said. “We are committed to an inclusive, transparent consolidation process that takes our employees and our customers into consideration to create a Long Beach Utilities organization that best benefits all.”

The first official meeting of the Utilities Commission is set for Jan. 5, 2023.

Consolidation Timeline

In the weeks and months ahead, the newly formed department will be working internally and externally to bring forth a seamless consolidation process to best serve our customers.

For water and sewer information, customers can continue to call (562) 570-2300, or (562) 570-2390 for an emergency. For natural gas inquiries, call (562) 570-2000, or (562) 570-2140 for an emergency.

For the latest updates on Long Beach utility consolidation, visit lbwater.org/utilities.

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