Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and County Councilman Bill Robinson (D-Hill District) are butting heads over access to proposals from energy companies to drill underneath Deer Lakes Park.
Robinson sent a letter to Fitzgerald asking that he make proposals submitted to the county last week public. Fitzgerald believes negotiations need to be conducted privately, and opening the discussion to the 15-member council could muddle the project’s success.
“With anything, you’re trying to get the best deal for the taxpayers and for the community,” he said. “And when that’s a public negotiation you tend not to have that leverage.”
Fitzgerald said natural gas drilling beneath Deer Lakes Park could bring in as much as $1 million in royalties that could be used to revamp the county’s parks. Since the proposals are not bids, the administration does not feel it needs to release them to the public.
But Robinson said he and the remainder of council have a right to see the proposals.
In a letter to Fitzgerald released Thursday, Robinson writes that it is council’s responsibility to negotiate county land leasing contracts, not the executive’s.
Fitzgerald disagrees, saying council will have the opportunity to see the proposals, just not now.
“Once all the negotiations are done and once the final ‘agreement’ is reached, that will go before council for final approval,” he said. “So, they’ll have that in plenty of time.”
Fitzgerald also said that including county council at this stage would be a waste of time.
“Some of the members that are speaking loudest have already voiced the fact that they’re for a moratorium so they’re going to be voting ‘no’ anyway,” he said. “They’ve already made their wishes known so why would they be involved in negotiating something they’re going to vote ‘no’ on?”
The county officially closed its proposal request last Friday and has not revealed how many responses were received.