By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As the City of Philadelphia explores the potential sale of the city-owned Philadelphia Gas Works, ratepayers will have to pay the bills for outside firms involved in the process, firms including high-powered legal, financial, and communications consultants.

The five-member Philadelphia Gas Commission, which oversees PGW’s budget, voted 3-2 today to approve more than $2.3 million in PGW revenues to pay those consultants.

The two members voting ‘no’ were Councilwoman Marian Tasco — the commission chairwoman (center of photo) — and city controller Alan Butkovitz (far left at table).

Tasco believes the City of Philadelphia stands to benefit most if it unloads the Gas Works, so the city should foot the bill for the outside consultants.

“Even if it is legal, it is unfair and unreasonable to burden PGW customers with any costs to explore a possible sale of PGW,” Tasco said today.

Butkovitz, the city controller, agreed.  “It’s unprecedented,” he said.   “It’s never been done this way before.   Secondly, if there’s any profit to be made, it’ll be made by the City of Philadelphia.”

But the Nutter administration thinks PGW should foot those bills.

“Both PGW customers and taxpayers would benefit from a sale.   And that is the question on the table that we believe needs to be answered,” said Suzanne Biemiller, first deputy chief of staff in Mayor Nutter’s office.

The city hopes to move the bidding process forward this spring.