By JEROD CLAPP
NEW ALBANY — A new custodial-services company was hired by the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp.’s board of trustees at Monday’s meeting.
Facilities Management Services, Inc. was awarded a three-year contract worth $7.95 million by the board in a unanimous vote. The administration’s presentation assured the board they’d learned a few lessons from the last custodial contract they negotiated with Sodexo in October 2011.
Brad Snyder, deputy superintendent, told the board that while the savings they’ll realize through FMS aren’t as much as they were with Sodexo’s initial offering, it’s still cheaper than bringing custodial services back in-house.
“The idea of utilizing the services of private-sector service contractors, the idea that did not work is false,” Snyder said. “Simply put... if the initial math of our relationship with Sodexo would have been better, then we would not be discussing this topic tonight. We had a successful working partnership as well as an amicable separation with Sodexo.”
He said while Sodexo came back again with the lowest bid of the five companies that submitted proposals, the administration’s recommendation was not based on price alone.
Snyder said the district took a “less rigid” approach to negotiating terms with FMS in their services, but he said the level of cleanliness in the schools will not deteriorate because of it.
Fred McWhorter, chief business officer, said while bringing the services in-house was still an option, it would cost the district about $3.18 million annually. The contract with FMS would cost about $2.65 million.
The 38 remaining employees grandfathered at their pay rates when Sodexo took over operations would retain their pay with FMS. Those hourly rates range from $9.24 to $17.01 per hour.
Bill Wiseheart, director of facilities, said he believes FMS starts its pay at $9 per hour, but wasn’t sure. By keeping current employees at their pay rates, Wiseheart said the district would pay more than $214,000 if they all transferred over. That price, he said, was figured into the contract language, but savings would be realized if any of those employees didn’t go with FMS.
Mark Boone, board member, said though the board had concerns about how they treated the employees, they technically didn’t work for the district anymore.
“When we made a decision to outsource, whether it be Sodexo or whomever else it was some 20 months ago, they’re no longer our employees,” Boone said. “We’re taking a hit of $214,000 by trying to retain these employees. Whether it’s popular or not, they don’t work for us right now. They didn’t work for us last week and they won’t work for us in two weeks when they come over to FMS. It is at a cost to us.”
Wiseheart said in his interviews with FMS and their references, he feels good about the company’s philosophy and how it works.
But Jan Anderson, board member, said she wasn’t so sure after the board’s experience with Sodexo.
“I think I’ve been pretty vocal about my disappointment with Sodexo, and with what I’m hearing from you, Bill [Wiseheart], is a lot of what we’ve heard when Sodexo was coming in to make their bid,” Anderson said. “I am concerned about our employees. I don’t want to make another decision that will be as negatively influenced on our corporation as our dealings with Sodexo. I’m very cautious now.”
Wiseheart said he understood any caution on the side of the board, but that FMS was a better option for the district than continuing with Sodexo.
“This is going to be profitable for them, they have to make some money off this,” Wiseheart said. “But at the same time, the staffing levels look right and I think we’ve gained some efficiencies by restructuring, which we intend to do, which will help this work as well.”
Roger Whaley, board member, said he was impressed with the company when he interviewed them and liked the way they appear to handle business.
Board president D.J. Hines said while hiring a company to handle custodial operations may not be popular, he thinks it’s the right move for the district.
“I don’t have a problem with outsourcing,” Hines said. “I think it’s a way to gain efficiencies and a way to maintain the focus of the organization.”
The district will begin its transition from Sodexo to FMS on Tuesday. Sodexo’s contract ends May 31 with FMS’s contract beginning the following day.
IN OTHER BUSINESS
• The board unanimously approved the purchase of 1813 Shelby Street. The board has purchased homes along that block of the street to expand parking and ease traffic for New Albany High School.
• Students who live outside of Floyd County will no longer have to pay cash tuition to attend New Albany-Floyd County Schools. A new policy unanimously approved by the board will allow students across county borders to attend the district’s schools without extra charges.