Indianapolis considers privatizing city services

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Mary Milz/Eyewitness News

Marion County - Indianapolis is once again looking to outsource some city functions to help save money.  Despite some skepticism, the list keeps getting longer.

As Eyewitness News reported last month, the city is considering outsourcing operations and maintenance at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Convention Center, which is currently run by the Capital Improvement Board. It's issued a Request for Information and Qualifications, with responses due November 24.

"It could result in new management practices by the CIB, a new large contract to take over the facilities or something in the middle such as keeping some of the operations and contracting out others," said Michael Huber, head of the Mayor's Office of Enterprise Development.

Huber is also looking at outsourcing or consolidating certain functions in parks, public works, Animal Care and Control, downtown parking and water and waste water treatment.

"We're keying in on maintenance, billing and collections, seeing if there's new technology," he said.

He said the ultimate goal is "saving money. We're trying to identify savings across the board in the tens of millions of dollars."

Shane Brinkman is president of AFSCME Local 1887, which represents park employees.

"I don't see how anyone can come under our price," he said.

Electrical and plumbing are two areas the city is considering outsourcing. 

"I don't know the last time you called a plumber but the bills for calling a plumber are significantly more than they pay in-house park employees," said Brinkman.

Huber said the city may discover that outsourcing isn't any cheaper in some areas but he said it's worth looking into.

Bill Rieber, who teaches economics at Butler University, agrees, noting privatization is nothing new. Former Mayor Goldsmith pursued it as has the governor, with mixed results.

"There are some cash problems with some of these government oversight boards and if the private sector is willing to take on these responsibilities for a lower cost it's worth checking into but there are no guarantees," said Rieber.

Huber said outsourcing and consolidation could mean the elimination of some city jobs, but he said it's too early in the process to know for sure.