By Charles Sercombe
For the past four years, the city has relied on one company to plow and salt emergency route streets when it snows, and to do lot clean-ups.
Since August of 2008, that service has cost over $1.8 million, according to financial records kept by the city and obtained by The Review through a Freedom of Information Act request.
A review of the bills submitted by Platinum Landscaping, which is based in West Bloomfield, is eye-opening.
For example, when the company first came on board in 2008 and 2009, the company charged the city $22,000 to plow and salt key city streets for each snowfall.
That price came down in recent years to about $12,000 for each snowfall.
Cutting and clearing lots also came with a high price tag. For example, a lot at 3142 Caniff cost $2,286 to cut and clean in 2008.
Over at 3973 Belmont of the same year, the cost of cutting and clearing that lot was $3,965.
At that time, Steve Shaya, the city’s Director of Public Services, was employed with the company. He became Director of Public Services last February.
The Review asked him to explain the costs for the services, but Shaya declined to comment. He said questions about Platinum should go to Acting City Manager Kyle Tertzag.
Tertzag said he could not comment on the matter because he was not here when the contract was OK’d.
He said he does not have experience in his past roles as city councilmember in Allen Park or city administrator of Woodhaven with private contractors doing the work of public works departments.
“I have no way to make comparisons,” Tertzag said.
The Review also attempted to talk to the owner of Platinum but the number listed for the company appears to be a fax line.
When Shaya was appointed as Director of Public Works, there had been concern over whether there was a conflict of interest with him supervising Platinum. He stressed to city councilmembers that there would be no conflict and that he would be on the lookout for the city.
But Councilmember Tom Jankowski questioned Shaya’s appointment, saying it didn’t pass the “smell test.”
“It doesn’t look good,” he said at the time. “I come here asking for best practices.”
Former Mayoral Pro Tem Catrina Stackpoole said she was also concerned.
“It’s a recipe for disaster,” she said.
Councilmember Cathie Gordon, however, championed Shaya, noting that he had brought improvements in the Public Works Department while acting as interim director for several weeks before his appointment.
Shaya was appointed in late February and given a salary of $72,000 and benefits worth $24,000.
Platinum came under scrutiny lately in a study of contractor invoices. A review of four contractors working for the city was prepared by Stout Risius Ross, Inc. (SRR) at the prompting of former Acting City Manager Erik Tungate in an effort to find ways to save money.
In a review of Platinum invoices, the company had the bulk of invoices that could not be documented. Platinum charged the city $36,602 that could not be reconciled.
Shaya has since produced documentation to the council that outlined what work was performed.
However, Acting City Manager Tertzag is recommending the city break the contract with Platinum and two other contractors, and rebid the work out.
The city council will have to agree to that recommendation. Mayor Karen Majewski said she agrees with Tertzag.
To see the invoices, click on this link, go to the 10/5/12 issue of The Review in our print edition at www.thehamtramckreview.com