Outsourced Cities, Brought to You by CH2M Hill

Source: Brendan Fischer and Seep Paliwal, October 16, 2013

When the town of Sandy Springs, Georgia, spun-off from Fulton County and established a brand new government, it didn’t sign a Declaration of Independence; it signed a contract.

The 100,000-person town entered into a five-year contract with the for-profit management company CH2M Hill to operate almost all of the town’s services: running trash collection, and street cleaning, and wastewater management, and even security and administration for the courthouse. A for-profit company, rather than public officials and public employees, would be in charge of providing all “public” services except for fire and police departments. CH2M HILL employees, wearing Sandy Spring uniforms and driving trucks with Sandy Spring logos, even enforced municipal ordinances like grass-cutting and parking regulations….

…In the next two years, the newly-created communities of Johns Creek, Milton, and Chattahoochee Hills — which, like Sandy Springs, were wealthy suburbs cutting themselves loose from less-affluent counties — followed suit, signing contracts with CH2M Hill to establish fully outsourced cities. …

…The four towns that had outsourced with CH2M Hill eventually changed course, finding the CH2M Hill contract and fees too costly during an economic downturn. The Town of Milton, for instance, saved $2 million over two years by dropping the firm, says Milton Communications Manager Jason Wright.

While many of the towns have continued to outsource many services, some have found taking certain services in-house has benefits. There is no longer a conflict between what’s best for the community versus what’s best for the corporation (and its shareholders)….