Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Berks County considering privatizing its prison

Source: Ben Allen, WITF, July 13, 2017
 
A midstate county may need a new prison soon, and one of its leaders is considering working with a private operator. Berks County Commissioner Mark Scott says he’s been talking with one of the major players… A new prison could cost more than $100 million. But Commissioner Mark Scott says working with a private prison company could cut those costs and speed up the construction process. …

Pottstown, Phoenixville schools eye tax cost of hospital sale

Source: Evan Brandt, The Mercury, June 16, 2017

… The potential sale of Pottstown and Phoenixville hospitals to a nonprofit company is being viewed with foreboding by business officials in school districts that stand to lose millions in property tax revenues. Officials at both Pottstown and Phoenxiville school districts said the respective hospitals in each borough are their largest property taxpayer. And each said that if the sale of the two hospitals — now owned by the Tennessee-based for-profit Community Health Systems — to the nonprofit Reading Health Systems goes through, they stand to lose as much as $900,000 a year or more in tax revenues. …

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CHS agrees to sell 5 more hospitals in Pennsylvania
Source: Dave Barkholz, Modern Healthcare, May 30, 2017

Struggling Community Health Systems has agreed to sell five hospitals in Pennsylvania to the not-for-profit Reading Health System.  The five hospitals are part of the 30 hospitals that Franklin, Tenn.-based CHS has agreed to sell to reduce a $15 billion debt burden. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.  They are169-bed Brandywine Hospital in Coatesville, 148-bed Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia, 63-bed Jennersville Hospital in West Grove, 151-bed Phoenixville Hospital in Phoenixville and 232-bed Pottstown Memorial Medical Center in Pottstown. …

State Contractor Accused of Denying Overtime Pay to Thousands of Pennsylvania Home Care Workers

Source: Business Wire, May 12, 2017
 
A major state contractor has been accused of systematically failing to pay overtime wages to thousands of home care workers in Pennsylvania in a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court. The suit alleges Public Partnerships, LLC, a subsidiary of the nationwide management consulting firm Public Consulting Group, knowingly refused to pay workers for overtime despite its active role in hiring employees, administering services and issuing paychecks, a violation of federal and state laws governing wages and labor conditions. The issues raised in the case mirror those at the forefront of ongoing litigation throughout the country on joint employers and their responsibilities to their workers. …

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Performance Audit: Department of Public Welfare’s Oversight of Financial Management Services providers
Source: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of the Auditor General, November 2013

From the press release:
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today said an audit of a Department of Public Welfare shows long-term mismanagement of home care worker payroll providers caused undue financial and emotional strain on tens of thousands of people. Thousands of workers had paychecks delayed for up to four months. … Beginning in December 2008, DPW had agreements with 36 different providers for payroll services of home care workers across the state. However, from 2009 through 2012, auditors found that DPW did not adequately monitor these providers resulting in numerous instances of noncompliance with applicable state and federal laws, regulations, and financial services standards by some of the providers. … DPW issued a request for applications in January 2012, and in August 2012 selected the Boston, Mass.-based vendor, Public Partnerships Limited, to provide payroll service statewide. In the short time frame that DPW had to transition 20,000 care recipient files to Public Partnerships Limited, DPW ignored many red flags — including concerns expressed by the vendor — that the new vendor was not fully prepared to pay all direct care workers by the DPW-imposed Jan. 1, 2013 deadline. The audit also found significant flaws in the procurement process used to select Public Partnerships Limited. …
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Audit Summary

Pittsburgh Tries to Avoid Becoming the Next Flint

Source: Kris Maher, Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2017

As its soot-filled skies cleared, this city built on the steel industry gained a reputation as one of the nation’s most livable places. But it now has another environmental issue to contend with: It is one of several major American cities with lead levels in drinking water above the federal limit.  A total of seven U.S. water systems, which each serve more than 100,000 people, had lead concentrations above the federal action level of 15 parts per billion in recent months, according to Environmental Protection Agency data. They include Portland, Ore., and Providence, R.I., which both exceeded the limit at least one other time in the past five years.  Since the lead crisis in Flint, Mich., cities have been under greater scrutiny from regulators and pressure from residents to reduce lead in drinking water. In most cases, there is no easy fix, and more cities are looking at the costly prospect of replacing vast networks of pipes buried under streets and private property. …

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Flint And Pittsburgh Have More In Common Than Lead In Their Water
Source: Donald Cohen, The Huffington Post, March 10, 2017

… Around the same time, the city’s water utility was laying off employees in an effort to cut costs. By the end of the year, half of the staff responsible for testing water throughout the 100,000-customer system was let go. The cuts would prove to be catastrophic. Six months later, lead levels in tap water in thousands of homes soared. The professor who had helped expose Flint, Michigan’s lead crisis took notice, “The levels in Pittsburgh are comparable to those reported in Flint.” The cities also share something else, involvement by the same for-profit water corporation. Pittsburgh’s layoffs happened under the watch of French corporation Veolia, who was hired to help the city’s utility save money. Veolia also oversaw a change to a cheaper chemical additive that likely caused the eventual spike in lead levels. In Flint, Veolia served a similar consulting role and failed to detect high levels of lead in the city’s water, deeming it safe. … On Wednesday, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto announced the city would provide filters for drinking water, which is the right thing to do. But he’s also considering partnering with another for-profit water company to clean up Veolia’s mess. … For-profit water corporations will always have a financial incentive to cut service, shrug off maintenance, and fire employees. When they’re in charge, the high costs of doing business are passed on to residents: privately owned water systems charge 59 percent more than those that are publicly owned. …

Activists press Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to oppose any privatization of its public assets
Source: Bob Mayo, Pittsburgh’s Action 4 News, February 24, 2017

Some activist groups and residents of neighborhoods affected by Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority problems are urging the PWSA board to oppose any fix for water authority problems that would involve privatizating the water system. During public comment at the board’s meeting Friday, they also criticized the PWSA over recent health and safety issues, including chlorination concerns that led to a boil water advisory and ongoing concerns about the detection of lead in the water of some customers. …

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House approves bill to sell state’s liquor wholesale system

Source: Mark Scolforo, Associated Press, April 25, 2017

House Republicans on Tuesday pushed ahead a set of changes to how alcohol is sold in the state, moving to privatize wholesale wine and spirits sales and expand the retail outlets where booze is available. Lawmakers voted 105-84 in favor of the wholesale divestment proposal, sending it with other proposals to the Senate for its consideration. The House voted to allow more grocery stores to seek permits to sell wine, no longer restricting the permits to stores with seating capacity, and retailers would be able to buy wine from brokers in the private sector. …

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Pennsylvania Republicans Set Up Push For Liquor Privatization
Source: Katie Meyer, WSKG, April 19, 2017

State House Republicans are attempting to chart a new course for liquor sales in Pennsylvania, pushing a traditionally state-run system further and further toward privatization. The as-yet-unknown revenue from that change is also expected to play a key role in balancing the caucus’s proposed budget.  As of Monday, four different GOP-led proposals are awaiting votes on the House floor.  The House Liquor Control Committee just passed House Bills 975 and 1075. The former would stop Pennsylvania from wine wholesaling, and the latter–which is even broader–would take the commonwealth out of both wine and liquor sales entirely. …

Pa.’s answer to privatizing booze sales? Bigger, better state stores
Source: Maria Panaritis, Philadelphia Inquirer, November 29, 2016

A law enacted this year lets Pennsylvanians for the first time buy wine at hundreds of grocery stores and gas stations, and online. Republican leaders who control the legislature insist total privatization remains their goal. Yet here was Rose, browsing in one of dozens of State Stores opened or upgraded this year. Bigger and nicer than the one it replaced. And an example of how the LCB, created in the 1930s to regulate alcohol, has responded to the intensifying calls for its disbandment. Rose, a 52-year-old engineering professor at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, said he agrees with privatization. But if the LCB is here to stay, he said, “I’d rather have a new store.” … Twelve months ago, the LCB had 600 stores. By year’s end, it will have 610. In the next five years, that number could be as high as 630. Two are coming to the Philadelphia area before Christmas: one with a grand opening Tuesday on Edgmont Avenue in Brookhaven, Delaware County, and a second at 1515 Locust St., near Rittenhouse Square, on Dec. 15. The LCB says this is all consistent with the June law enacted by Gov. Wolf and the legislature – even though it diluted the LCB’s monopoly by expanding wine sales to private outlets. … That could rise to 600 within a year, said LCB spokeswoman Elizabeth Brassell. The new law allows the LCB to open more stores – and with extended Sunday and holiday hours. It also allows for lottery machines to be installed. … Still, GOP leaders are convinced it will ultimately weaken the LCB. House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny), most vocal about dissolving the board, predicted in June that the changes would “accelerate public demand for full privatization.” Two weeks ago, Turzai hinted that the privatization war may intensify yet again. He said privatizing the LCB’s wholesale operations was being considered as a potential new revenue source: “It’s one of the ideas on the table.” For all its potential weakening of the LCB, the law did reinforce the LCB’s exclusive right to hard-liquor sales. That could help sustain the store-expansion strategy. In an LCB study of 22 markets where refurbished or new stores opened, sales increased 5.5 percent, Brassell said. That study was done before this year’s law was enacted. …

Despite Push For Privatization, LCB Grows Number Of State Stores
Source: Tony Romeo, CBS Philly, November 20, 2016

Despite the continuing desire by some legislative leaders for privatization of alcohol sales, Liquor Control Board officials told lawmakers this past week that they are planning to increase the number of state stores in Pennsylvania. Selling off state stores has long been seen by advocates of privatization as their Holy Grail. But when asked last week about possible efforts to privatize retail sales, the legislature’s chief backer of privatization, House Speaker Mike Turzai, indicated leasing of wholesale operations was a higher priority. Liquor Control Board Chairman Tim Holden says even with a new law increasing the locations where wine can be sold, there are no plans to reduce the number of state stores. … In fact, LCB officials told a House committee that they have added nine state stores over the latter part of this year, for a total of 609 by year’s end, and that they aim for a total of 620 by the end of next year. …

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School district to retain IT department

Source: Joe Cannon, The Sentinel, March 24, 2017

Information technology services will remain in house in the Mifflin County School District following action taken Thursday by the district’s board of directors. Several members of the IT department were present at Thursday’s meeting to urge the board not to outsource IT services to a company that proposed to do so during the board’s February meeting. IT Director Kevin Cunningham and several of his colleagues gave a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the advantages of keeping the department within the district. … Cunningham noted the company proposing to do the service, Questeq, a Coraopolis firm that provides outsourced education technology management services to school districts, alluded to the fact that the in-house department doesn’t have the resources to reach out properly. … Cunningham said outsourcing would allow the district to lose ownership in equipment, personnel decisions and hours worked. …

Pottsville Area seeks to outsource buses

Source: Amy Marchiano, Republican Herald, March 17, 2017

The Pottsville Area school board voted Wednesday to potentially outsource its bus transportation. The board voted unanimously for the administration to accept request for proposals regarding busing students. The RFPs are due today and will be opened at 10 a.m. at the Howard S. Fernsler Academic Center. A pre-bid meeting was held at 10 a.m. March 6 at the academic center. Superintendent Jeffrey S. Zwiebel said about five interested companies attended. … Last year, the district also solicited for RFPs and also wanted to sell its fleet of vehicles. Three companies attended a pre-bid meeting last March. The district decided not to outsource busing last year. …

Boyertown considering privatization of services

Source: Holly Herman, Reading Eagle, March 19, 2017

Following a nationwide trend, Boyertown officials are considering a proposal that would privatize water and sewer services. Borough officials have met with Aqua Pennsylvania, which provides service to 1.4 million customers in Pennsylvania. Council President Frank J. Deery said the company has inquired about purchasing the town’s water and sewer facilities. … “We are listening to what they have to offer,” Deery said. “It’s too early to say what will happen. We are in the study stages. We are a long way from anything happening.” … Nationally, with aging water and sewer systems in need of maintenance and repair, there’s been a rise in municipalities entering public-private partnerships for all or part of their water supply systems. Currently there are more than 2,000 community water and wastewater facilities across the country being served by these partnerships, according to the National Association of Water Companies. … Loder said the next step would be to determine if the borough wants to sell the two facilities. The borough’s public utilities committee will meet Wednesday to discuss the proposal. Loder said the committee will decide whether to recommend that Council hire an appraiser to determine the price of the facilities.

SRC hires teacher-prep program over protests

Source: Kristen A. Graham, Philly.Com, March 16, 2017

Over protests from the public and concerns from one of its members, the School Reform Commission awarded a contract Thursday to prepare 20 new teachers to work in the Philadelphia School District. The contract amount is relatively small for a district with a multibillion-dollar budget: $150,000 for one year of work. But the approval was controversial because of the vendor: Relay Graduate School of Education, a relatively new teacher-preparation program founded by three charter-school networks. … It submitted an application to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, but failed to gain approval to offer degrees in Pennsylvania. Aspiring teachers will essentially be in a two-year Relay “residency” program, working with a veteran Philadelphia educator their first year and in their own classroom the second year. If they complete the program, they would get a master’s degree from a Relay program in another state. …

Were foster child’s claims about Packers taken seriously?

Source: Peter Hall, Michelle Merlin and Nicole Radzievich, The Morning Call, March 18, 2017

…. The crying bothered Jessica Rotellini Law so much, she said, she told an employee at the agency that placed her, at age 16, in the Packers’ Allentown home with Grace, her toddler brother and a 13-year-old girl in 2006. Law said no one ever followed up with her, and that within days of reporting her concerns, she was sent to live with a family in Montgomery County. Sometime in the next year, the Packers adopted Grace and her brother.

In July, when Grace was 14, Sara Packer, 42, and her boyfriend, Jacob Sullivan, 44, tortured and killed the girl before dismembering her body and discarding it near a Luzerne County reservoir, police say. They are charged in her homicide.

Law found out about the horrific charges when a detective visited her last month, carrying a picture of Sara Packer. The concerns she said she voiced in 2006 should have raised red flags, social services experts say. Some wondered if Sara Packer’s connection to the social services system — sources have told The Morning Call that Packer started fostering children through The Impact Project when she also was a caseworker there — may have affected the process.

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More counties consider cutting ties with agency connected to Sara Packer
Source: Bo Koltnow, WFMZ-TV, March 8, 2017

Another county cut ties with an area foster care agency after allegations involving alleged abuse by Sara Packer. Lehigh County cut ties with the 26-year-old agency Tuesday. Northampton County did the same Monday. At least two more counties are reviewing contracts with the foster care placement service. On its website, Impact Project boasts about winning the Program of the Year award from Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Court Judges Commission. Now, the private foster care agency is coming under fire. The agency serves 400 kids per year in nine counties. Northampton County broke the news that Impact allegedly knew about former employee Sarah Packer’s alleged abusive behaviors between 1999 and 2002, and did nothing. Late last year, Packer and her boyfriend were charged in the rape, murder and dismemberment of Packer’s 14-year-old adopted daughter, Grace. .. The Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network which licensed the Impact Project calls the news of Packer’s time at the agency alarming, and says it is currently looking into Grace Packer’s history. The Pennsylvania Auditor General announced his office will be auditing the child protection system Tuesday. … Officials at Impact — the for-profit agency that placed Law, Grace and dozens of other foster children in the Packers’ home — would not address Law’s account. …