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Nassau County gets nine bids to be sewer lease adviser

The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in East

The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant in East Rockaway on Nov. 14, 2012. Photo Credit: Doug Kuntz

Nine companies including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Ernst & Young, have submitted bids to serve as Nassau’s financial adviser on a plan to lease the county’s sprawling sewer system to a private investor, county officials said Thursday.

Last month, County Executive Edward Mangano revived a proposal to lease Nassau’s three sewage treatment plants, 53 pumping stations and 3,000 miles of sewers to a private concessionaire in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars to pay down county debt.

For the third time in five years, Mangano issued a request for proposals for an adviser to study whether a concessionaire could run the system more cheaply and efficiently than the county.

The bids, which were due Wednesday, came from financial management companies with offices in Manhattan. They are: BMO Capital Markets; Goldman Sachs & Co.; KPMG, NW Financial Group; Public Financial Management Inc.; Samuel A. Ramirez & Co.; Ernst & Young; Loop Capital and JP Morgan.

“We are pleased with the interest received,” said Eric Naughton, Nassau’s deputy county executive for finance, who declined to disclose the amounts of the bids.

The county’s RFP review committee will “perform the necessary due diligence” and pick a winner in the coming months, Naughton said. The contract is expected to go to the county Legislature’s Rules Committee by the end of August.

Nassau wants an upfront payment from an investor of at least $600 million — although officials expect the county to receive more — which would be used to retire $500 million in sewer system debt. The funds also would be used to pay off some general obligation debt.

The investor would sign a lease of up to 49 years and be repaid from sewer fees collected from county residents. Nassau would continue to own the system and bill customers, Mangano said.

Two previous efforts to hire an adviser for the sewer deal were blocked by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, a state oversight board that controls the county’s finances.

Mangano first proposed a lease of the system in 2011 and hired Morgan Stanley as an adviser. At the time, it was projected that an investor would pay the county $750 million to $1 billion. NIFA rejected the contract, calling the deal “backdoor borrowing.”

Mangano renewed the effort last year, hiring KPMG as an adviser. NIFA again blocked the contract, arguing that it needed more information. NIFA then hired its own consultant, New Jersey-based Lamont Financial Services, which recommended that Nassau move forward with the hiring of a financial adviser.

NIFA chairman Adam Barsky said he supports going through the process to “see what the adviser says. Let’s see if there is a case to go forward.”

Nassau last week issued a separate RFP for a bond counsel to represent the county in the potential lease agreement and manage the transaction’s legal and regulatory issues, including labor, environmental and real estate matters.

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