Are big money contracts being covered up in Harrisburg? - abc27 WHTM

Are big money contracts being covered up in Harrisburg?

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A Harrisburg city councilwoman is blowing the whistle on what she calls "backroom deals" going on behind closed doors in the mayor's office.

Sandra Reid, chair of city council's Public Works Committee, said she recently learned the city is in talks to privatize trash pick-up. She believes this will raise rates for city residents.

"When I ask specific questions, I don't get any answers and I'm wondering what are we hiding," Reid said.

According to Reid, Mayor Linda Thompson and her team are in final negotiations with Republic Services, based in York, to become the city's new trash hauler. Currently, the city employs its own sanitation workers to pick up waste.

Reid said the deal is worth millions, but she's not been able to obtain true dollar amounts from Chief Operating Officer Bob Philbin. What's more, she said, is that the contract has not been vetted to city council or the public.

"It was said (by Philbin), 'we're going to keep this under the table until after the contracts are signed'," she said. "Why are we waiting until after contracts are signed to make decisions?"

Reid said the city is also negotiating a contract with Philips Lighting to install LED bulbs in 4,600 street lights. That also hasn't been made public, she said.

When reached for comment Tuesday, Philbin told abc27 both deals are in the "preliminary stages." He did respond when asked why no public hearings have been held.

"There's nothing more to discuss on air at this time," he said in an email. "The focus right now is on the Harrisburg Strong Plan."

Philbin added that the out-sourcing of trash falls under what the state-appointed receiver recommends in his plan, saying it will save the city $900,000 per year. He said the LED contract will save $300,000 per year in utility costs.

Reid said she believes history is only repeating itself at City Hall.

"This is how we got into this mess -- $300-plus million in debt because somebody behind a closed door made a decision," she said.


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