UI moves forward in exploring public-private partnership

The period for firms to submit a request-for-qualifications proposal has ended, and now selected firms have the opportunity to submit a request for proposal.


Lily Smith

The Old Capitol is seen on Nov. 25, 2018.

Brooklyn Draisey, Summer Editor

The University of Iowa has taken another step forward with its exploration of a partnership with a private firm to maintain and operate its utility system.

The UI on July 11 announced it will proceed with a request for proposals in its search for a potential public-private partnership with the utility system, according to a statement. 

Firms had until 3 p.m. June 14 to submit their request-for-qualification proposals to officials at Wells Fargo, one of three companies consulting the UI during this process. UI Media Relations Director Anne Bassett said in an email the UI will not be able to share the number of vendors or their names until the process is complete. 

The request for proposals will be released this summer, Bassett said, but there is no set date as of now. 

As part of the request for qualifications process, the UI included that firms must be committed to: 

  • making sure the UI operates coal-free no later than Jan. 1, 2025
  • exploring new sources of boifuels to create sustainable, lower-cost fuel options
  • keeping all facilities in similar or better condition
  • continuing campuswide sustainability efforts

According to the statement, the UI expects that whichever firm involved in the partnership will operate the system will offer jobs to current utility-system employees. For employees not offered jobs, there will be positions at the UI. 

“Following a rigorous RFQ process, which involved shared governance and academic leadership, we are ready to take the next step in our exploration,” UI President Bruce Harreld said in the statement. “The potential partners in this next round have illustrated a commitment to our employees, ensuring the UI is coal-free by 2025 and the additional responsibilities we outlined toward a sustainable future.”

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In addition to moving ahead with the search, the UI will also hold two information sessions in the fall semester. These sessions will take place before any potential next steps, Bassett said. 

According to the statement, selecting a vendor, receiving an evaluation from the state Board of Regents, and signing an agreement could all potentially happen the fall semester. Resources would not be allocated until fiscal 2021, which begins July 1, 2020. 

“Please remember, as stated from the start, the UI is exploring a P3 involving its utility system through a deliberate and measured process — and no final decision has been made,” Bassett said in the email. “The UI won’t know the value of the utility system P3 until the RFP process is completed and a concessionaire agreement is signed.”

The first information session will be held from 9-10 a.m. in 2117 Education & Research Facility on the Health Science Campus. The second will be held on the East Campus from 1-2 p.m. in 348 IMU. 

“The UI is committed to delivering on our mission of education and research excellence — and our university has continually met the challenges set before it through hard work, ingenuity, and collaboration,” Harreld said. “That can-do spirit will once again allow us to determine our own future. This is our charge, and this is a potential opportunity to make that happen.”