Ballard considers privatizing city services - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Ballard considers privatizing city services

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City Controller David Reynolds City Controller David Reynolds
Bob Swearingin Bob Swearingin
Steven Quick Steven Quick
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Mary Milz/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Mayor Greg Ballard is looking at privatizing some city services to save money, a move that could ultimately effect hundreds of city employees. His administration recently sent draft letters to three unions alerting them to the possibility.

The draft letter reads, "The city has determined that it is in its and the taxpayers' best interest to competitively bid out the work of the following areas: 1) grounds maintenance; 2) forestry; 3) pool/plumbing maintenance; 4) mowing; 5) towing; 6) water maintenance; 7) fleet services: 8) payroll; 9) HVAC; 10) electrical; and 11) procurement."

"The 2010 budget will be very difficult to write," said City Controller David Reynolds.

Because of new property tax caps, Reynolds said the city faces a $23 million shortfall next year.

"So we're making sure we look at all the services to see that they're delivered in the most efficient and effective way possible," Reynolds said.

Bob Swearingin, the shop foreman at Fleet Services on Belmont, said, "I don't think we have anything to worry about."

"We don't really want to hear that, but we can do the job. We showed them in the past and we'll do it again," he said.

Swearingin worked at fleet services when then-Mayor Goldsmith looked into privatization the early 1990s.

Goldsmith wound up contracting for some trash pick-up and some mowing, but Fleet Services, among others, proved they could do the job for less money than a private company. Still, Swearingin said the union also had to cut the staff and forgo raises to win the bid.

Asked if the city was initiating the process to win further concessions, Reynolds said, "This is no way an effort to skirt the union process. It's about us sitting down with them at the early stages and talking about how we deliver services."

"I think the numbers we'll show we're as efficient as it gets," said Steven Quick, president of AFSCME Local 725.

Quick noted there is a cost to going through the process again. Reynolds agreed. "Clearly there's a cost going down this path and we'll have to weigh that against the long-term effects."
Reynolds estimated the cost at roughly $100,000. "But just going through the process, I think we'll find savings, whether or not we put out a Request for Proposal," he said.

Quick said "while nobody wants to" go through the process again, he understands. It is a new administration.

"What I appreciate is we will be part of the process and they will work with us as a team," Quick said.

Reynolds said he hopes to meet with union reps later this week. He said a decision on contracting with private companies come could by July or August.

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