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Grand Forks Air Force Base privatizes utility services

Grand Forks Air Force Base front gate. (Forum News Service file photo)

The Air Force awarded contracts to two North Dakota businesses for utility services at Grand Forks Air Force Base and Cavalier Air Force Station. This is part of a larger effort by the Air Force to privatize utility systems on their bases, according to a press release.

The base currently experiences three to five water breaks a year according to Les Canarr, deputy base civil engineer of Grand Forks Air Force Base.

The Air Force entered into a 50-year contract for water distribution and wastewater treatment worth $285.5 million with Base Utilities Inc. of Minot. The company, which already handles utility lines for Minot Air Force Base, will be hiring 13 new employees in the Grand Forks area and two in the Cavalier area, said owner Russ Gohl.

The Air Force also awarded a contract worth $85 million to Nodak Electric Cooperative to service electrical lines.

Grand Forks Air Force Base will not lose any personnel due to these changes, Canarr said. In fact, as part of the contract with Nodak Electric, workers will be teaching airmen how to make repairs.

"We still want to make sure our electricians learn how to work on transformers, how to work on substations," Canarr said.

The largest benefit of the new contracts will be a better focus on preventative maintenance which, Canarr said, has been largely deferred due to the constraints of government budgets.

"This program will allow us to infuse money into it right away to increase that reliability, increase that resiliency and hopefully get us back into something where we can feel comfortable that we'll always have our utilities available when needed," Canarr said.