Proposal to Privatize Pittsburgh City Garage
Pittsburgh Mayor Murphy wants to privatize the city garage to save the city money, which could result in half of the city's 26 mechanics losing their jobs, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on April 27. Many City Council members oppose the plan. "The city needs to privatize the management of the garage, not the garage itself," City Councilman Doug Shields said.
The city's oversight board is reviewing the privatization plan.
Mayor Tom Murphy's privatization plan comes after calls from some state lawmakers to outsource city services, from the garage to the asphalt plant. Backed by allies on City Council, Mayor Murphy has offered to give First Vehicle the entire fleet's maintenance work.
According to the newspaper article, First Vehicle’s bid proposal offers to provide the city with a strict preventative maintenance program — routine oil changes, lube jobs, tire rotations and tune ups — that keep trucks running and avoids costlier repairs down the road.
"I favor the privatization because First Vehicle guarantees they'll have 95 percent of my trucks on the road," Department of Public Works Director Guy Costa said. "I can't get that guarantee now."
A Pittsburgh Tribune-Review analysis of Public Works repairs in 2001 and 2002 found that 40 percent of all garage work orders came from "non-targeted" fixes. That ballooned to more than 60 percent when accident repairs and other services First Vehicle won't provide without more cash were included.
Fred Bell, president of the local International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, believes taxpayers might end up paying First Vehicle $3 million extra for repairs the garage already does, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Rather than save the city money, privatization could cost taxpayers $1.3 million more than they already spend.
That prompted the mechanics to create a plan of their own: fire Murphy's managers and run the facility as a tax-exempt authority, charging other agencies for repair work. Pittsburgh's mechanics believe they can save taxpayers more than $2 million over the next four years, with no job cuts, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
First Vehicle maintains 40,000 vehicles in more than 135 cities and counties, including Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County's fleet. Allegheny County Public Works Director Thomas Donatelli called the 1998 decision to turn his fleet over to First Vehicle "a success in every way" because it improved garage efficiency while slashing taxpayer costs by "at least $1 million a year," according to the newspaper article.