During Monday’s City Commission meeting, some Deltona residents questioned whether or not the study of Deltona Water by KPMG was worth $200,000.
DELTONA — A few residents questioned whether or not the review of the city’s water utility was worth $200,000 following a 20-minute presentation during which only two commissioners asked a few questions.
The 73-page report by KPMG, the auditing firm chosen to conduct the study, addressed Deltona Water’s financial planning and management; human capital management; internal reporting and accountability; information technology; customer service and billing; water treatment and distribution; and wastewater.
[READ: Deltona staff response to KPMG’s assessment of water utility]
During Monday’s City Commission meeting, Matt Berry, a director in the financial management, government and public sector of KPMG, along with a few representatives from a subcontractor, said his plan was to review the executive summary and key takeaways from the report, which is available on the city’s website on the Citizen Water Committee page.
“The report should absolutely be read in its entirety to really gain the full value and understanding of the context for all of our observations and recommendations,” Berry said.
The draft of the study was published Jan. 27, and officials and staff said the issues identified by KPMG were no surprise. Those issues include, but aren’t limited to, outdated technology, inefficient practices and not enough staff.
In response to Commissioner Chris Nabicht’s question about why Berry said analog meter readers are “inherently problematic,” Berry said it’s the human component of manually entering data.
Officials and staff also said that John Peters III, who was hired as the city’s director of public works and utilities after the city had decided to pursue the study — which Gov. Ron DeSantis cut from the state budget last year — was already addressing some of the concerns prior to the start of the study.
Peters is already looking into bringing automated meter readers to the city, and the request for qualification for converting the analog readers to automated meter readers has been completed.
Peters’ department also “took immediate action to reconcile the issue” when KPMG said the utility didn’t have adequate controls over personally identifiable information. That came as a relief to Commissioner Anita Bradford who inquired about the matter during the presentation.
Marc-Antonie Cooper, interim city manager, said the items KPMG addressed, which were identified by the water committee, definitely gives the city items to work on in its utility, but nothing that’s insurmountable.
Though the report is available online, some residents said KPMG should’ve provided a more thorough presentation of the findings during Monday’s meeting instead of expecting residents to seek out and read through the study in its entirety.
“I don’t think you got your money’s worth,” said Tim Coll, a member of the Citizen Water Committee.
Coll, who lives in Volusia County but is on Deltona’s water, asked the city to consider doing away with the 25% surcharge that residents like him pay.
David DiLena, of Government Services Group, Inc., the company with which KPMG subcontracted, said the surcharge amounts to approximately $357,000 annually.
“I think you guys could figure a way out to give some Deltona Water customers some relief, because it is a large burden to us,” Coll said.
In phone a interview Tuesday, Mayor Heidi Herzberg said having state Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona, and his legislative assistant Eric Raimundo put together a committee of citizens who then created the scope of the study and chose the auditing firm was the right way to handle the issue.
“I think it was worth doing the study to clarify a lot of the questions that were raised,” Herzberg said. “It needed to be an outside, third-party source that came in and did that.”
Vice Mayor Victor Ramos echoed that sentiment.
Ramos said if the study wasn’t done, there would always be questions.
“This was worth it for our community,” Ramos said. “The positive is that some of the findings and takeaways show at least we're moving in the direction we need to to make it a better system.”
Dana McCool, president of Deltona Strong and a member of the water committee, agreed with Coll’s take on the surcharge and the presentation.
“It left me limp,” McCool said of the presentation. “However, the information contained in it is good information, and as long as we keep moving forward with these changes, I think that it is well worth the $200,000.”