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2018-04-11 / News

School officials select custodial contractors

BY JIM McCONNELL STAFF WRITER

Editor's Note: The four companies were approved by the School Board at its meeting on April 10.

Four companies have been selected to manage night production cleaning at 65 buildings as part of Chesterfield County school system’s new custodial services program.

Pending approval from the School Board at its April 10 meeting, the quartet – Atalian Aetna Integrated Services, American Facility Services Inc., ABM Industry Groups LLC and L.T. Services Inc. – will share an $11.6 million contract that takes effect July 1.

The four companies were among nine that bid on the custodial services contract earlier this year, following the school system’s decision not to renew its agreement with Tennessee-based SSC Service Solutions, whose contract expires June 30.

The School Board began outsourcing custodial services during the 2014-15 school year, hoping to save money in operations that could then be directed into the classroom.

SSC, which has held the contract since 2015, missed a Nov. 30 deadline to have at least 90 percent of its buildings cleaned to the required standard as defined by the Association of Physical Plant Administrators.

Having concluded months earlier that they could not move forward with custodial outsourcing in its current form, school officials already had begun to evaluate various alternatives that would produce cleaner buildings at an affordable price.

Instead of relying on one contractor to handle all school buildings, they decided to divide the work among at least three new companies this time.

“If you have one contract for the entire county, there are only a handful of companies that have that capacity,” School Board Chairman John Erbach said last October.

“I think once we break our district down into smaller pieces, we may have more companies competing,” added Nita Mensia-Joseph, chief operations officer for Chesterfield County Public Schools. “We want to leave our options open because you might find smaller companies that can do a very good job.” The solicitation period opened Jan. 26 and closed Feb. 28. The committee that was formed to evaluate bids from custodial contractors narrowed the field from the initial nine to six finalists, then advanced to negotiations with the four that were ultimately selected.

ABM was awarded the largest piece of the contract at $3,345,898. Atalian Aetna’s share of the agreement is $3,193,099, followed by L.T. Services ($2,729,400) and American Facility Services ($2,327,428).

Each contractor has been assigned to clean all buildings in a geographical zone. ABM has 18 schools, while Atalian Aetna and American Facility Services have 17 apiece and L.T. Services has 13.

Having multiple vendors “provides us with flexibility to make sure each contractor continues to perform at a high level,” Mensia-Joseph said. “If they don’t, their area could be taken by one of the other contractors.”

Additional details of the custodial contracts were expected to be made available after the School Board’s approval Tuesday night.

Unlike SSC, the four new companies will be responsible only for performing heavy-duty production cleaning after school hours. As part of its new hybrid custodial services model, the school system has hired 150 day porters who will handle lighter cleaning during the school day.

The School Board’s approved fiscal year 2019 budget, which was expected to be voted on by the Board of Supervisors at its April 11 meeting, includes $7.7 million in additional funding for the day porters and related costs.

The total amount budgeted for custodial services in FY19 is $19.3 million.

The school system’s transition plan is to have the day porters and four contractors assume increasing responsibility over the next two months so they’re ready to hit the ground running when SSC’s contract expires. ¦

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