Click for audio Pleasant Ridge: Privatizing Public Works

Large cities including Indianapolis have slashed costs and improved the quality of their municipal services by privatizing—contracting with private firms to perform duties previously done by government.

Now the tiny Oakland County city of Pleasant Ridge is demonstrating that privatization can achieve dramatic results for small towns, too. In 1996, the city privatized Pleasant Ridge’s entire Department of Public Works.

A private company now provides Pleasant Ridge’s 2,700 residents services such as street salting, tree planting and removal, leaf pick-up, and snow removal all at a cost 22 percent less than what it took the city to do only some of these jobs.

The company, which also serves many other Michigan cities, owns and operates equipment that Pleasant Ridge’s small tax base could never have supported on its own. For example, citizens now benefit from tidy streets and uncongested sewers thanks to a private fleet of street-sweeping vehicles and sewer-cleaning machines.

Pleasant Ridge citizens and officials report that privatization in their community is a success. Residents are enjoying higher quality municipal services, and budget-conscious administrators are reaping great savings, maintaining citizens’ trust, and acting as good stewards of the public purse.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Catherine Martin.