HOLYOKE CITIZENS FOR OPEN GOVERNMENT
19 Yale Street € Holyoke MA 01040
For more information:
Carolyn Toll Oppenheim
Tel. 413 540 0149 or 540 0145 or cell phone 413 530 6484
NOON PRESS CONFERENCE IN HOLYOKE CITY HALL LOBBY MARCH 10
Holyoke Citizens For Open Government Call on Mayor to
“Reverse Decision to Nix Public Bid for CSO’s and Hire
An independent consultant to counter the self-professed “Quarterback of Privatization”
Holyoke Citizens for Open Government (HCOG) will read an open letter to Mayor Sullivan asking him to reverse a decision to reject an order sent to him by the city council for approval last week, seeking an independent consultant’s estimate of the cost of a publicly-run solution to the CSO and Waste Water Treatment Plant problem. (HCOG members will read the letter in Holyoke city hall lobby at noon on Thursday March 10th.)
The Mayor released his decision in the Republican newspaper on Wednesday to reject the city council order, saying the city council has spent enough money on consultants. However, documents released at last week’s city council show that the lead advisor to the city on solving the problem, Jack Lyons, of Lyons Associates, sold himself to the city as “uniquely qualified” to help privatize the system and that the team of consultants were directed to solicit, evaluate and award a 20 year contract with a private company.
“Who else in Massachusetts has more successfully performed for over 20 years the ‘quarterback’ role for privatization procurements?” Lyons’ letter of qualifications for the position of advisor to the team states.
None of the estimates that cost Holyoke $1.3 million compares a municipally-run operation to a privatization option. The City does not have an apples-to-apple comparison; there was no separate consulting team set up which was told to develop a competing municipally-run project. The absence of an even-handed analysis leaves the question of what is best for ratepayers completely unanswered.
HCOG calls on the Mayor to appropriate funds for a truly independent consultant to give us a public bid for cost comparison.
On behalf of those 500 citizens who appeared at the Feb. 7th public forum at Holyoke High School, HCOG calls on the Mayor to listen to the citizens’ request for a public bid to compare costs with the Aquarion.
The letter to the Mayor notes that the consultants he is relying on for information were all asked to offer services to help the city with a “public-private partnership” with a private company, not to give independent consultation as to whether going public or private is the best course for the city. The request from the city that went out seeking consultants was read at last week’s city council meeting and it was so skewed to the “privatization” approach that one consultant called himself ‘the quarterback of privatization.”
HCOG’s letter to the Mayor also asks him to adopt two other city council orders passed last week:
€to see what more work the DPW can do to improve the situation before any contracts are signed so that the baseline of problems is lower and the rates can be lower;
€to air tapes on cable access that were made of a Feb. 16th public hearing HCOG held for citizens, after the city failed to tape and air the Feb. 7th forum so citizens could hear the public discussion.
The first (Feb. 7th) public hearing was called by the City Council Finance Committee with the Department of Public Works to give the public an opportunity to ask questions and offer comments on the proposed contract. Nearly 500 citizens packed the high school auditorium in response to post cards that were sent out to every single ratepayer in Holyoke. The postcards were a demand made by HCOG to make the process more open and involve the citizens in public discussion.
Almost every citizen who came to the microphone opposed the private contract without a public bid for cost comparisons.
Holyoke Citizens for Open Government calls on the Mayor to obtain professional assistance to weigh its alternatives from AMSA, the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies, a national coalition of professionals working on behalf of publicly run wastewater systems. The group offers technical assistance and benchmarks for deciding how to upgrade its systems, whether public or private. HCOG has provided the Mayor with materials from the organization.
We are asking the Mayor to “open up the governmental process so Holyoke can be model of democratic decision-making in the Valley.”