Thompson administration responds to transparency questions - abc27 WHTM

Thompson administration responds to transparency questions

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A Harrisburg city councilwoman is questioning the transparency of the Thompson administration when it comes to striking deals.

After speaking with abc27 Tuesday night, City Councilwoman Sandra Reid remained fired up on Wednesday about "backroom deals" the city is making.

"The more I learn about this trash deal…the more it stinks like rotten garbage," she tweeted.

Harrisburg is close to striking a deal to privatize trash pickup with York-based Republic Services, according to Chief Operating Officer Bob Philbin. He explained the contract would save the city about $900,000 a year in costs.

Reid argues there is no way to verify that information because Philbin and Mayor Linda Thompson have not informed the public about the potential deal.

Reid told abc27 she would not get specific answers about questions she had about the deal. She said Philbin told her to wait until the contract is finalized. Reid publicly questioned Philbin's intentions and accused him of being "sneaky."

"Ms. Reid has a tendency to go over the top [with] almost every public utterance that she makes," said Philbin. "And the comments she made last night were absurd."

Philbin allowed Public Works Director Kevin Hagerich to explain the bidding process with Republic Services. He said three companies that submit proposals were vetted by a committee that involved Philbin, the city's finance director and Hagerich. Once the committee selected Republic Services, the city began contract negotiations, which where the deal currently stands.

"We want it in black and white when all parties signed," said Hagerich. "That way we can read it. Then there won't be any questions of I heard this, I thought that, I saw that."

Hagerich said if any details were made public before the contract was finalized, that could hinder on-going negotiations.

However, Reid did not buy that argument. She believes city council should at least be briefed on possible contracts the city wants to engage in to allow the public to weigh in. Reid fears the trash deal could raise rates, but she is not sure because details have been hidden.

Reid is also concerned about a potential deal with Phillips. Hagerich explained the contract would install 4,600 LED light bulbs in the city that would save upwards of $300,000 in utility costs. He said this is a program that Phillips enters with municipalities, and the idea came about during a mayor's conference.

Much like the deal with Republic Services, Hagerich said it's just too soon to release details.

"[Phillips is] crunching numbers to see if it's going to work for them and us. And we're basically in that same process -- we're negotiating," he said.

Both Hagerich and Philbin said they aren't conducting the contract process any differently than any time before. Philbin said City Council President Wanda Williams has been briefed about contract negotiations.

So that begs the question, was this lack of communication or was this lack of regard of a proper way to do city business? Turns out, nobody is exactly sure what is legally required.

"There's some discussion now in the law bureau on that subject," said Philbin. "But regardless of the outcome...city council will be thoroughly briefed."

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