Money-Saving Consultants Have Cost SEPTA $2.8 Million, Invoices Show

Looking for ways to save money, SEPTA has paid about $2.8 million to a Boston-based consulting firm, including payments of more than $500 an hour to some specialists.

In the process, FTI Consulting Inc. has used 24 of its staffers, some of whom have collected more from SEPTA than the transit agency’s highest-paid official, general manager Joseph Casey, who makes $273,000 a year.

The meter is still running, with additional payments expected to continue through the end of the year.

SEPTA hired FTI in February 2013 through a no-bid contract to help the transit agency reduce legal costs arising from injury claims.


City Of Wilkes-Barre Partners With Florida-Based Management Company To Enforce Registry Of Blighted Properties

WILKES-BARRE, PA — City officials on Monday announced an agreement with a Florida-based management company to maintain a database of the city’s ballooning number of blighted properties. The database will also allow residents to submit locations of abandoned properties on the city’s website.

The partnership comes at no cost to taxpayers, said Andrew LaFratte, municipal affairs manager.

LaFratte said Community Champions, formed in 2008, will receive half of every $200 registration fee the city gets when a vacant property is registered. An ordinance enacted in 2010 initially proposed an incremental charge for vacant properties, ranging from $150 the first year to more than $5,000 for a property vacant more than 10 years.

Community Champions will be charged with establishing the database and populating it with parcel data. Once the tool is live, LaFratte said, city officials will be trained on it. LaFratte said the entire process will likely be completed within a month.

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Reading Officials Form Plan To Find Foreclosed-Property Owners

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A two-alarm fire in September 2011 gutted a vacant row home at 1422 Muhlenberg St., damaged two neighboring properties, and started the city on yet another frustrating journey to find an owner and order that a building be properly boarded up.

The Muhlenberg Street problem was just one skirmish in the city’s ongoing battle to find elusive property owners for such things as fire cleanup, unpaid taxes, quality-of-life tickets or blight.

But the battle may soon be over.

The city has a plan to get banks to register their foreclosures and may hire an outside firm to help monitor and enforce the rules.

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Police Cuts Talk Of 2 Luzerne County Towns

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two municipalities facing budget shortfalls are exploring options to ease their finances by cutting police services.

Edwardsville Mayor Bernard “Ace” Dubaskas said council members are talking about reducing the number of full-time officers, while Laflin council members are considering contracting with a neighboring municipality for police protection.

Cutting police services is not a new concept for cash-strapped municipalities.

Warrior Run disbanded its police force in favor of contracting police services from Nanticoke two years ago.

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Pottstown Fires Codes Worker Being Investigated For Taking Developer’s Check

Editor’s note:  I think this incident illustrates how broken Pottstown‘s municipal government really is.  Apparently, in the past, it was anything goes in borough hall.  While, BM Flanders isn’t on my hit parade (and I am sure the feeling is mutual) at least he is handling this situation rather than sweeping it under the carpet.  The carpet in borough hall is very lumpy…there has been a good deal of crap kicked under the rug in that building for years.  

Frankly, we think Codes should be outsourced.  It’s the poster child for a dysfunctional department.  Maybe after a period of time passes, the department could be reinstated and an entirely new staff hired.

POTTSTOWN — The firing of zoning work leader Michelle Fry from the codes office is just one of the developments in the borough department that has recently received so much scrutiny.

Of Fry, formerly known as Michelle Borzick, Borough Manager Mark Flanders would say only that “she is no longer employed by the borough,” and said he would neither confirm nor deny that her departure was connected to a police investigation of her alleged acceptance of a check from developer and convicted thief Frank McLaughlin of East Coventry.

Fry, however, confirmed to The Mercury Tuesday that she is using a standing borough process to appeal her termination. She declined to comment further.

McLaughlin was sentenced in Montgomery County Court last month to three years’ probation after he pleaded guilty to a felony charge of theft by unlawful taking in connection with his use of devices to by-pass water meters so he would not have water bills at his property.

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Pottstown Codes Deptartment Gets Reprimanded By State

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  This made the Mercury’s 2012 Top Stories list…always good to keep the shenanigans in Pottstown on our minds!  Be vigilant!

POTTSTOWN, PA — The state agency which oversees code and inspection functions in Pennsylvania has issued a “formal warning” to the Pottstown Codes office for a number of violations, including allowing inspections to be conducted by personnel not certified to perform those inspections.

In a letter issued Oct. 2, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry informed the codes office manager, Maria E. Bleile, of the results of its complaint investigation.

The letter outlines eight complaints regarding inspections at both commercial and residential properties, ranging from Pottstown Memorial Hospital, to the Salvation Army to four residential properties.

Issues ranged from inspectors conducting “plan reviews” and inspections without the proper certification; to no records of reviews or certain inspections being conducted at all; to missing dates in inspection reports.

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Pennsylvania Unveils Bid To Privatize Lottery

English: Pennsylvania Lottery official logo, w...

English: Pennsylvania Lottery official logo, which includes tagline, “Benefits Older Pennsylvanians. Every Day.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The Britain-based company that runs the national lottery in the United Kingdom is pledging to produce more than $34 billion in profits over 20 years if it wins a contract to manage the Pennsylvania Lottery, Gov. Tom Corbett‘s administration said Tuesday as it moves toward privatizing the state’s $3.5 billion system.

The administration said it will weigh the offer by Camelot Global Services, which it said is good until Dec. 31, and is the only one it said it will receive after two other companies that it would not identify dropped out.

The revelation of the bid was the first time that Corbett has disclosed the identity of an interested party since it announced in April that it would explore privatizing the lottery in an effort to raise more revenue for the programs for the elderly that are supported by the Pennsylvania Lottery. Other states, such as Indiana and New Jersey, have shown no need to keep such secrets while exploring private lottery management contracts.

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West Reading Fires Police Chief, 2 Others

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  At least there are places in the universe where poor performance and bad behavior aren’t rewarded or tolerated!

After months of turmoil in its troubled police department, West Reading Borough Council voted Wednesday night to fire Police Chief Edward C. Fabriziani, Sgt. Richard Vetter and Officer Ronald E. Ladd.

“We had a rough night, as you can imagine,” Councilman James J. Gallen Jr. said after the vote, which was preceded by a 2½-hour executive session that left some council members teary-eyed.

Fabriziani and Council President Kevin M. Conrad declined to comment on the action, and Ladd and Vetter were not present.

Reached at home following the meeting, Ladd’s wife said that the couple needed a couple of days to deal with things before they would comment.

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City Of Reading Hires Montgomery County Firm For Payroll

At Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer’s request, City Council on Monday awarded data processing giant ADP a $214,100 contract to take over the city’s payroll operations.

The move will get rid of an error-prone, in-house system for which the IRS has fined the city more than $100,000.

“We’re not payroll experts; we’re getting out of the business,” said Christopher Zale, acting director of administrative services.

The IRS fines – $50,400 each for tax years 2007 and 2008 because the city’s W-2 forms weren’t compatible with IRS computers, and weren’t re-filed properly until months after the deadline – were levied in 2010.

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