Ohio military base looking to privatize utilities

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's largest military base is expected to privatize more energy and utility operations as it tries to offset steep cuts in the federal defense budget.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton already has asked for bids to privately manage two water plants on the base that pump more than 3 millions of gallons a day out of an underground aquifer.

"Right now, it's all in house," Col. Cassie B. Barlow, commander of the 88th Air Base Wings, told the Dayton Daily News (http://bit.ly/18WJp60 ). "What the Department of Defense has decided to do is privatize all of our utilities so water is just one of them."

The Defense Logistics Agency also has asked for bids to maintain the base infrastructure for wastewater collection and natural gas distribution at the state's largest single-site employer, base spokesman Daryl Mayer said.

The Dayton City Commission already has given the go-ahead to prepare a bid to take over the base's water treatment plants.

Officials say the moves will save money, but they can't say yet how much.

"There is an intensive drive by the Defense Department of find cost savings wherever possible and even small cost savings are being aggressively pursued," said Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition's vice president of federal programs.

The moves are among those taken at the base to curb costs amid the last round of federal budget cuts. They've included moving scientific tests to hours when electric consumption is at its lowest to get cheaper rates, and dialing back thermostats to 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer. The base has also canceled intramural sports and drained a decorative fountain.

A second round of cuts is expected in mid-January unless Congress reaches a deal to avert the reductions, which is not expected to happen.