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Consultant: Scope of city finances akin to seriously injured patient

“You are in triage.”

That is what Tracey Rash, of Government Finance Solutions, Harrisburg, told Councilman Randall J. Allison, when he asked her Thursday night at council meeting to describe the level or scope of the financial bleeding in the city compared to other environments she has been in or seen as she helped other municipalities with their finances.

“You’re in a very challenging position because you’re trying to make decisions to go forward without having accurate information to look at historically,” Rash said.

She added: “That’s my No. 1 goal is to get you to a place where you know at least as accurately as possible what you have and then you can move forward.”

Allison offered more.

“I don’t see how we can’t rush the process at all,” he said.

“I do agree that we should have somebody as soon as possible by your side learning these things,” Allison said.

Over the past two years what has emerged has been overwhelming, he noted.

“But one of the things we’ve seen all along as we’ve transitioned from long-time employees — and most of them did a very good job while they were here and didn’t leave uncovered problems — is we got used to unrealistic financial circumstances,” Allison said.

“We talked about this a little bit in finance and that the amount of money we were paying the salaries the level of them was not real realistic as far as it didn’t come up with the times and people out of the goodness of their heart served the city and worked here to keep things moving ahead but we got we really got behind financially and and lost sight of what it was going to take to replace the professionals with skills that that no one else has,” Allison said.

I think we’re really going to have to come to grips with that,” he said alluding to the potential cost — which could reach $150,000 for two skilled employees.

“We don’t want this to happen again,” Allison said. “We said that about all these situations and the only way to assure that is to have every base covered competently so I don’t think we’re going to get out of this really quickly,” he said.

“I think we’re going to have goals to hit but it’s just a … harsh reality that we’re going to have to … have to work through.”

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