Privatizing of PTC victimizes city’s taxpayers

Scott Bradshaw's picture

There has been a trend to create new cities in the north metro Atlanta suburbs during the past five years. The newly incorporated cities of Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Johns Creek, Milton and Brookhaven seem to have appeared overnight.

Grass-roots efforts helped establish the new charters through enabling local legislation by the General Assembly followed by an affirmative vote by residents of the proposed cities.

The shiny new cities have promptly elected mayors and councils, hired employees and selected private companies to provide key services to constituents.

A majority of residents of the new cities are happy to distance themselves from inept county governments such as DeKalb and Fulton but find that operating cities is an expensive proposition.

Cost effective?

Outsourcing government services to private sector companies is not always cost effective because the service providers must make profit beyond the actual cost of the work.

The arrangement also requires cities to maintain staff to oversee the contracts, monitor the work and respond to public complaints.

More is lost in costs than is gained in efficiency and some Peachtree City residents are coming to the same conclusion. Outsourcing services in Peachtree City is not working well and is overrated in cost, level of service and responsiveness to residents.

Peachtree City’s first significant experiment with outsourcing was the brutal firing of landscape maintenance employees in the Public Works Department followed by the sale of top of the line New Holland tractors, flail mowers and other equipment at a pittance.

The City Council convinced the public that contracting with a commercial landscaping company to cut grass and maintains right of ways would save the city more than $800,000 annually.

Privatizing neatness

How did that work out? Look at the unkempt landscape areas around town, compare the present situation to five years ago, review the expenditures for the contract including extra services and the cost of staff to oversee the service and draw your own conclusions.

The question for citizens to ask is “Why did the Public Works Department budget increase from $2,872,249 in FY2010 to $3,746,841 in FY 2012 excluding the cost of stormwater expenditures and engineering?” This reflects a 30 percent increase in two years.

The City Council’s second major exercise in outsourcing services involved firing most of the Building Department staff in another alleged cost savings maneuver.

No-bid contract for fees

It followed this classless act by promptly adopting a new fee schedule for construction plan review and building inspections which almost tripled the fees passed along to homeowners by remodelers and home builders.

Council members subsequently outsourced construction plan review and building inspections to SAFEbuilt, Georgia, Inc., apparently without reading the contract.

Meeting minutes reflect that council simply approved a motion to authorize the mayor to execute a contract with SAFEbuilt for services. The actual contract was not part of the agenda package that is normally seen by council members and made available to the public.

A 90% share of fees

The original SAFEbuilt contract was not competitively bid and was an absolute sham. It permitted SAFEbuilt to retain 90 percent of the proceeds of most fees while the city retained only 10 percent.

The City Council clearly violated the city ordinance requiring competitive bidding for service contracts. Some city insiders were also miffed because of the cozy relationship between the mayor and SAFEbuilt representatives.

The Board of Directors of the Home Builders Association of Midwest Georgia engaged an attorney to make an issue of the no-bid contract. After more than a year of evasiveness and foot dragging, the City Council agreed to follow the law and bid the contract competitively.

Company influenced fees?

The request for proposal for the new bid was advertised using specifications and requirements influenced by SAFEbuilt representatives.

The council spit in the face of local builders and their clients by basing the bid on the same escalated fee schedule. It is significantly higher than fee schedules in nearby cities using SAFEbuilt services and the same building code criteria.

The number of bid finalists was two and ... you guessed it ... SAFEbuilt won the bid over competitor Charles Abbot Associates, Inc. in a unanimous vote by the City Council last week.

The split of proceeds set forth in the new proposal is a more reasonable 70 percent for SAFEbuilt and 30 percent for the city. Draw your own conclusions about the events that led to this sorry situation!

Something is amiss

This writer has concluded that something is amiss. Those who sense corruption may be on the right track.

The third major effort to privatize city services was the Recreation Department fiasco. The city fired several recreation employees and outsourced programs for senior citizens to Fayette Senior Services on a contract basis.

Fayette Senior Services is a private “non-profit” organization that outsmarted the mayor and council in contract negotiations.

The taxpayers now pay too much for managing senior programs in addition to agreeing to totally renovate two city-owned buildings for exclusive use by the private organization. The renovation is being done on borrowed money!

A major selling point expressed by one City Council member was that Peachtree City seniors will be in great hands with Debbie Britt as head of Fayette Senior Services.

Outsourcing seniors

Debbie Britt recently nullified that argument by resigning from Fayette Senior Services for a job at the hospital.

How did the outsourcing of senior programs work? Are senior citizens better off today than they were a year ago? Check with a senior citizen and draw your own conclusions.

It is obvious that some elected officials in Peachtree City have gone privatization crazy at the expense of taxpayers.

Finances just don’t add up

Cash reserves are being reduced, long term debt is up, fees are up and services are reduced while the city budget continues to increase. The finances just don’t add up!

It is no surprise that the city property tax millage rate was again increased by the City Council.

Peachtree City citizens have an option that is not available to the new cities north of Atlanta. We are blessed with an effective and efficient county government compared to Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Sometimes this writer thinks Peachtree City residents should throw in the towel, ask Representative Matt Ramsey to introduce enabling legislation to de-charter the city and go through the steps to become an unincorporated part of Fayette County in exchange for less hassle and a reduction of property taxes.

My thoughts about de-chartering quickly disappear when I think about the new county commission. It isn’t much better than the Peachtree City mayor and council.

Enough said!

[Scott Bradshaw, a resident of Peachtree City, is a real estate broker and residential real estate developer. His mother’s family has owned property in what is now Peachtree City since 1820, before there was a Fayette County. He may be contacted at rand5474@bellsouth.net.]

tgarlock
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May I suggest Scott Bradshaw as a write-in candidate . . .

. . . for mayor in the next election. I know he will resist, but maybe we'd get lucky and persuade him to serve.

Terry Garlock

Mike King
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Terry

I echo your suggestion for Scott would be be the ideal candidate.

Surely, one of out elected Council has the courage to make a retort to Scott's article. Well, maybe not because if they blame the previous administration a correlation could be made to another empty suit that we elected at the federal level.

Husband and Fat...
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I second this recommendation

!!!!!!!!!!

Mike King
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Would an Elected Official Please Stand Up?

Mr Bradshaw makes some very valid points concerning outsourcing, and two of our elected members of our city council have even posted under this headline but failed to address his concerns. Would one of them dare to address the thirty percent increase in the budget for the Public Works Department since firing twenty-five employees to save an estimated $800K? Come on Mayor, you were on Council and voted to fire those city employees.

Care to comment on SAFEbuilt? The discontent among seniors with the Recreation department? Heaven forbid an enlightenment concerning corruption. Scott is correct fees are up, service is down, cash reserves are reduced, long term debt has increased, and the millage rate for home owners keeps rising.

Do we have an elected member of our city council who will take responsibility?

GeorgeDienhart
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Larry, H&F

We are already term limited to 2 consecutive terms.

Larry Sussberg
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George Dienhart

Thank you

I encourage you to keep posting.
It appears you have a shadow?

GeorgeDienhart
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Thanks Larry...

If I do, I'll take it as a form of flattery.

Quallacherokee
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Mr Dienhart, Term Limits

IMO
I'm not entirely addressing you, but....
Term limits are what the minority screams for
when "Democracy" isn't going their way.
I submit this for consideration, As with the Federal government
Executive Branch (level)positions should have term limits to prevent Kingdoms
however, representatives (council members) should have the opportunity to represent as long as they are receiving 50% +1 of the Vote.

Allow me this scenario..

Mr. Buymyvote, gets elected, he knows that he is limited to 2 terms, so to insure re-election he seems to be fiscally responsible and has the public's best interest in mind, so he's a walk in his last re-election. Now, all the behind the scene deals he and others on the ______ can be brought forward,
Zoning's are approved in a legal manner that will benefit Mr Buymyvote, and his family for Decades if not centuries. Why not do this , his job is already gone....

Folks are talking about Obama and his next LAST 4 years and the fear they have of this,,now imagine 1/3 of the Senate,1/2 of the House,and 3 of the 5 Counsel Members KNOWING this IS their last term,,no matter what..

Talk about an INSTANT way to create "legal criminals" term Limits WILL DO and have done exactly that

GeorgeDienhart
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Q-

I wasn't advocating one way or the other. The current charter already provides term limits for the city's elected officials.

Quallacherokee
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Mr Dienhart

Sir I completely understand your lack of advocacy either way,(rightly so) it's just your comment allowed me to pontificate my inner personal thoughts on Term Limits

GeorgeDienhart
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Q-

That's your right, and the community is better off when people share their thoughts and opinions. Thanks for sharing yours.

Don Haddix
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Haddix: Term Limits

Well said.

I would add with term limits many try to create an heir apparent, so the name may change but not the thinking.

It is the duty and obligation of the voters to set term limits at the ballot box. They need to know and think before they vote.

If a person is doing a great job, why not let them stay? Is booting them out to put in a terrible official an improvement?

If someone then runs unopposed, is that good?

Look at the State Legislature elections over the last decade alone. Many ran unopposed. In some areas they had zero candidates and they had to go begging to get anyone to run at all.

Look at local elections. Many run unopposed for reelection. We had one Post, last election, with only one candidate.

And no pay? Civic mindedness? Only the rich can run?

Really? A number of the places where no one ran for the Legislature was because no one could afford the pay cuts to run.

Age old debate. I don't think it is going to go away until the electorate get more seriously involved. People do need to think it through.

This is a serious issue. It is not a blood or blog sport to see who can be destroyed.

Quallacherokee
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Easy Answer, Mr Haddix.

Pay attention, understanding that one's life is not JUST "the wife and kids, and work, and soccer, and planning vacations, it HAS to be community involvement, which may ONLY mean PAYING ATTENTION.

and Thank you your Honor, for the Kind words

(Guy in the Black Hat)

whatnow2424
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Outsourced pools

The quality of the public pools in PTC went downhill when they outsourced the lifeguards and management about 10 years ago.

Larry Sussberg
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Scott & Peachtree City

How about revising the city charter to:

1-1 term limits for council and mayor

2-NO SALARIES

Let's get back to the concept of public service!

politics and political aspirations = loss of focus on true service and plain old supidity in PTC and Fayette.

Spyglass
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Two things about the Mayor working for free..

Haddix would be overpaid.

2ndly, how would our fair City recover expenses from him?

Husband and Fat...
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I like the thought of term limits

and the idea of public service.

I think two terms would be better. If someone is really good, why get rid of them. However, 8 years is enough

Agree no salaries. I think you can get some intelligent business people or retirees to take this job and any younger people who want to get into politics can use this as a stepping stone.

I have no problems with aspirations. However, we need problem solvers, not finger pointers.

Spyglass
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The City is certainly not better off in the looks department

It bothers me, but hey, my taxes are supposedly $20 cheaper a year. Big deal.

Husband and Fat...
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Unprepared or Lazy, Hopefully not corrupt.

I am not sure that I would go as far and say that anyone at the city is corrupt regarding the RFP's for the building permit review and inspections proposals. However, I would say they were unprepared or lazy.

When the city chose to let go of the Bldg Dept personel and privatize the dept they most likely didnt have the time to put together an RFP. They probably contacted a few firms that do this and Safebuilt had the best salesperson. I call that unprepared.

However, a year later when they were forced to put this out for competitive bidding, the city didnt have a clue how to write this proposal or the timing of this was bad due to the cutbacks. After all, Safebuilt has been taking people to lunch once a week and becoming friends with people at city hall. Safebuilt, hears that they could be out of a job and sends thier salesperson over to meet with the city and over lunch offers to help the city write the RFP so that the city can compare bids that are "apples to apples". The city thinks that this is a good deal as it will save someone in city hall the time it take to put the proposal request together. Safebuilt has a year under their belt and now knows how to work the system. Safebuilt modifies thier proposal which was written to thier benefit and there you have it folks. I call this lazy.

This happens every day in corporate america. A hardware salesman goes into an architects office selling his product so that the architect specifies the salesmans product on his next job. Architect complains that he is in a bind and needs some assistance on the hardware for some large project coming up. Salesman offers to write the specifications for the architect and architect agrees because it will save him time and he will save money on his fee. Salesman then writes specification to promote his product over others.

Unprepared or lazy? Probably. Corrupt? Hopefully not.

ptctrader2010
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Privatization / Outsourcing

Scott: I always appreciate your perspective. I think the long pole in the tent on this one is that most companies/municipalities just cannot deal with the burden of employee benefits and pension plans. And now ObamaCare has added to that complexity on the private side of the equation.

So when you ask if we are better off... If I can look at our balance sheet and say that we have not incurred a durable debt of pension or benefits... The answer has to be yes.

By the way, I have no connection with anyone in office or seeking office... Just a concerned and observant citizen.

Thanks for your continued care and concern for our city.