Firm in line to staff part-time toll takers

Posted: September 22, 2010

A politically connected company that handles customer service and data processing for the Philadelphia Parking Authority and E-ZPass is on track to win a $3.1 million contract to provide part-time toll collectors for Delaware River Port Authority bridges.

A new three-year contract with PRWT Services Inc., which has worked for the DRPA since 1997, is to be voted on next month by the full DRPA board. A committee approved the contract last week.

The political ties of the DRPA and its vendors have become an issue in recent months, as Gov. Christie has pushed for changes at the authority to limit conflicts of interest and pay-to-play connections.

The DRPA board last month passed a measure to prohibit "undue influence" by board members or employees, "to ensure that all decisions made by or on behalf of the authority are made without any appearance of favoritism or bias. . . ."

But the board balked at a measure requested by Christie to prohibit political contributions by companies that do business with the DRPA.

PRWT, based in Philadelphia, is a prominent minority business enterprise with close connections to the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia political establishments.

One member of its board of directors is Robert W. Bogle, the Philadelphia Tribune publisher, who also is a member of the DRPA board.

Former Philadelphia controller Thomas A. Leonard also is on the PRWT board.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker is the president of PRWT Business Process Solutions, the subsidiary that handles toll collections. George Burrell, an adviser to former Mayor John F. Street, is the parent company's general counsel.

The $3.1 million proposal by PRWT was slightly higher than bids from two other companies, but the DRPA concluded that PRWT's experience with toll collection and its favorable track record with the agency outweighed its higher cost.

The firm offered to do the work for about $1.027 million a year. It was selected by the DRPA committee over PSI Personnel of Doylestown, which bid $937,916 a year; 5 Star Parking, also of Philadelphia, $1.010 million; and Contemporary Staffing Solutions of Mount Laurel, $2.174 million.

PRWT will be paid $15.71 an hour for each part-time toll collector. From that amount, the toll collectors will receive $10 per hour, local union officials said.

PRWT will provide parking attendants at the DRPA's cruise terminal in South Philadelphia for the same rate.

PRWT currently provides nonunion toll collectors on weekends and holidays at the DRPA's four toll bridges, the Ben Franklin, Walt Whitman, Betsy Ross, and Commodore Barry.

Full-time weekday toll collectors are hired by the DRPA and represented by International Union of Operating Engineers Local 542. Most of these union toll workers are paid $46,176 a year, or about $22 an hour.

The DRPA has employed PRWT for 13 years, since the authority shifted its weekend toll-collection to part-time workers to save money. It negotiated with the Operating Engineers an arrangement to cut costs for the DRPA and to allow the full-time toll-collectors to work non-rotating weekday shifts.

PRWT, whose officers include active political donors, runs call centers for E-ZPass in New Jersey and Pennsylvania's Child Support Program. The firm handles customer service for parking authorities in Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as Philadelphia.

Through its U.S. Facilities subsidiary, it also cleans two Philadelphia prisons and manages locks and tunnels for the Virginia Department of Transportation.


Contact staff writer Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.

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