An initiative to sell off one of Philadelphia’s public utilities just got a little more transparent. With the launch of a new website, exploringsale.com, PGW and the Nutter Administration are inviting ratepayers into the informational loop as they explore and examine the feasibility of a potential sale.
The Nutter Administration has stated that selling PGW to a private operator would be beneficial to the utility’s owners, the ratepayers. The new website is a place where residents can follow along with the process of a potential sale, find answers and also ask questions, which can be submitted through the online portal.
At present, the city’s inquiry into a potential sale is already costing ratepayers $2.7 million. The Philadelphia Gas Commission approved the funding back in January, a move that Gas Commission chair and Councilwoman Marion Tasco as well as City Controller Alan Butkovitz voted against. Councilman Curtis Jones, also a sitting member of the gas commission, voted to pass what was estimated as a $2.4 million bill for legal services, lobbyists, and public relations specialists needed to explore the possible sale of PGW onto its customers.
Jones has spoken out against the sale, but is admittedly interested in seeing a significant increase in its current appraisal, which has been speculated at around $18-20 million.
A bill authorizing the Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities to hold hearings examining the sale of PGW was introduced to City Council by Councilman Kenyatta Johnson over a year ago in Feb. 2012. With support from just eight of the seventeen council members, and five of the seven sitting committee members, the bill has yet to come up for a final vote.
Though the website is explicitly for exploratory purposes, its sleek design offers a Domino’s Pizza delivery tracking-like system, highlighting four phases of exploration: Making Preparations, Gauging Interest, Evaluating Offers, and Closing the Sale.