Public-Private Partnership—A Concept Whose Time Has Come for Ashland?

Did you see the presentation at the Council study session last Monday?  It was really impressive. I won’t rehash the whole thing, since I wouldn’t do it justice. If you didn’t see it, you should watch for yourself and draw your own conclusions.  It starts at about 1:04:30.

It’s well worth watching because it could offer so much of value for the city with very little downside.   It’s obviously something that should be explored in greater depth.  Even the legacy members of the council seemed to be receptive to the idea.  At least they weren’t overtly hostile to it.

The one thing that wasn’t mentioned was the PERS problem.  Virtually everyone agrees that PERS is a huge encumbrance for the city.  The only way we’re going to get out from under that is to have fewer employees.  This would be a way to do it. 

The genesis of the presentation was wastewater treatment plant question.  But it’s clear that the partnership could also include the water treatment plant.  Some of Public Works could also be considered.  The possibilities are unlimited.

The presenters made it clear that we could retain the present employees (if they chose to stay with the new boss).  The beauty is that the city would no longer be responsible for current and future PERS liabilities for them.

One of the common points of objection on council is loss of local control, but it seems clear that under the proper agreement, the city would retain as much control of policy as we would desire.  The beauty of the arrangement is that the city can tailor it to fit our needs.

The possibility of operational cost savings appears to be significant due to economies of scale and efficiency of sharing expertise and personnel.  That, combined with the PERS advantages, makes the program appear quite appealing.  It deserves a closer look.

We know that council has their plates full with the budget.  It won’t be an imposition on them.  It would be a project for staff to prepare an RFP.  I can hear the objections now: “but staff is SO overburdened!”  This is something that could have a considerable payoff, and is well worth the investment of staff time.  And council time as well, when it comes time to consider the issue.   This could be a giant step toward repairing the hole in the budget, a problem that has yet to be addressed in any meaningful way.  But council is going to need some encouragement to do this.

So watch the presentation.  See if you don’t agree that it makes a lot of sense, that it’s worthy of further investigation.  Then write the council and tell them what you think.  They can use all the help they can get from the citizens to get them working in the right direction.  Write to all of them with one email at

And a huge thanks to Interim City Manager Gary Milliman for bring this to our attention.  It is a potential game changer.

Dean Silver

//inserted by Sharon