by: Bob Bauder, TribLIVE Updated:
The Pittsburgh mayor's office canceled the purchase of an $1,800 coffee machine when questions started percolating about it.
City Council on Wednesday approved Chief Innovation Officer Debra Lam's request for a Multi-Max Single Cup vending machine. The company's website says depending on the model, the machine offers either 25 varieties of Keurig coffee or 12 varieties of coffee packets. The mayor's office nixed the purchase on Thursday afternoon because the Tribune-Review questioned it in the morning.
“There was a review of it, and it was decided that it wasn't a wise use of city money,” said Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto. “It's real easy to get coffee in this building.”
Controller Michael Lamb said the machine was in the City-County Building, Downtown, this week. An office inspector checked it on Monday, he said, and he was withholding payment until council approved it. It was unclear whether Lam's office returned it.
“I don't know where it stands in the pipeline, but it's not going to be installed,” McNulty said.
Department directors are permitted to sign off on purchases under $2,000 and submit them to council for approval. Lam referred questions to McNulty.
McNulty said she requested the machine thinking the city would recoup its money through purchases. The machine accepts dollar bills and coins.
City Council members said they were unaware of the coffee maker when they approved 102 purchases by 14 city departments.
Council President Bruce Kraus said he asked council budget Director Bill Urbanic to investigate the purchase.
“He's going to brief me on it, but I won't have that until the morning,” Kraus said.
For $1,800, the city could have purchased a 12-cup Mr. Coffee at $17.99 for each of the 60 employees in the Department of Innovation and Performance headed by Lam and had 40 left over.
Lamb noted that officials are debating a five-year financial recovery plan that includes a proposed tax increase on property owners.
“We need to be careful with every dollar we spend, and buying an $1,800 coffee maker doesn't seem to be the best use of public dollars,” he said.
(Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)