There may be more public-private partnerships in Alexandria’s future.
The Alexandria City Manager’s office is looking to hire a full-time staff member “in order to enhance and grow the City’s use of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the delivery and financing of City facilities, infrastructure and services,” according to City documents.
The City already has a number of public-private partnerships in place, including the Covanta energy-from-waste facility on Eisenhower Avenue, non-profits that provide services to Alexandria residents (such as after-school programs and animal control), real estate development and land use and more. While the City has significant experience in managing such partnerships, they can be complicated, and having one person solely devoted to the process may speed up the process.
The City Manager’s office stated in a written report to City Council, the facilitation position was developed as “in part a follow on to the Joint City-Schools Capital Investment Task Forcework and recommendations. With a long list of capital needs and with limited funding, increasing the use of the private sector in the funding and the provision of facilities and infrastructure would be in the City’s long-term financial interest. Each dollar saved via a public-private partnership is a dollar that can be invested in other facility or operational needs.”
Not everyone is sold on the benefits of public-private partnerships. In an article on the pros and cons of PPPs, The Brookings Institution noted: “It is important to note that there is no ‘free lunch’ when it comes to PPPs: the cost of an infrastructure project must eventually be paid, either by the taxpayer or the consumer. When firms are offering to pay the upfront costs of infrastructure investments, it can be easy to lose sight of this reality. … That is not to say that PPPs are without merit. A firm that is responsible for later phases of an infrastructure project will be more inclined to make appropriate decisions at the outset of the project regarding design and construction. Furthermore, firms engaged in PPPs will generally have less incentive to cut corners on construction costs, since the PPPs give the firms more ‘skin in the game,’ encouraging better decision making.”
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