Joint Base San Antonio privatizes base utilities

By Connie Braesch DLA Energy Public Affairs

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A new 50-year fixed-price utilities privatization contract will upgrade Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, electric and natural gas distribution systems and improve installation mission readiness.

Utilities privatization is a method by which military bases can obtain safe, reliable, technologically current, resilient, and environmentally sound utility systems at a relatively lower cost than they would under continued government ownership, said Defense Logistics Agency Energy Utility Services Director Martha Gray. DLA Energy Utility Services manages the contracting mission supporting the military departments’ utilities privatization programs.

“We provide the pre-and post-award contracting and technical expertise for service partners privatizing government-owned utility systems such as water, wastewater, electric, thermal and natural gas under Federal Acquisition guidelines,” she said. “In the privatization process, military installations shift from the role of owner operators to that of smart utility service customers.”

Patti Rivera, a DLA Energy contracting officer, has been working on utilities privatization contracts for military bases across the nation. Historically, the military services have been responsible for base utilities infrastructure and some of the facilities are failing or near failure, Rivera explained. The Air Force does a wonderful job at their mission, but aging utility systems, tighter budgets, and a host of other issues sometimes left them handicapped to give the systems the attention they needed, she added. 

“Utilities privatization is a transfer of the infrastructure ownership in perpetuity to a private utility owner,” Rivera said. “The contract is for the servicing of the system, outside of buildings, to bring it to industry standards and keep it there.”

On July 1, the Air Force signed over complete ownership of Joint Base San Antonio electric and natural gas distribution systems to City Public Services of San Antonio. In September 2017, CPS was awarded the contract valued at $250,085,055 and began the transition period of verifying inventory and system condition before taking responsibility for the systems.

The contract is for the operation and maintenance as well as the replacement and renewal of the systems across the 11,160-acre base that includes Randolph Air Force Base, Lackland Air Force Base and the Lackland Training Annex. The inventory adjustment modification, completed July 26, added an additional $39,858,055 in value, bringing the total contract value to $289,943,735.

“CPS will focus the first five years on operationally critical projects to bring the system to industry standards,” Rivera said. “These companies know the best, latest, and most cost-effective solutions to not only improve the systems but also reduce the cost of the utilities due to more efficient, not to mention safer, infrastructure.”

To visualize the complexity of the contract, the electrical JBSA solicitation was for 164 miles of primary overhead circuit; 1,681 wooden poles; 233 miles of underground circuit; 68 pole mounted transformers; 556 pad mounted transformers; six miles of streetlights; 445 electrical manholes; and 76 miles of PVC conduits, Rivera explained. The gas system includes 100 miles of pipe; 1,080 regulators; 1,009 valves; and 58 rectifiers. 

Rivera said it was no small effort to bring the contract to fruition. She credited the teamwork of the contractors, Air Force Base Civil Engineering personnel and Air Force Civil Engineering Command. 

“All of these entities are experts in their given fields, and we worked closely with all of them to make sure the Air Force was getting the best value,” Rivera said. 

While this contract is for electric and gas systems, Rivera and the DLA Energy Utility Services team is working towards also awarding water and wastewater utilities privatization contracts for JBSA as well as several other military bases across the nation.