New Haslam privatization plan targets higher ed

Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is quietly moving to privatize the management and operations of all state college and university facilites and the other state government buildings not already outsourced to the multinational property management giant Jones Lang LaSalle, reports Richard Locker.

The administration came under criticism two years ago for turning a $1 million contract with JLL to assess the condition of several state buildings into a multimillion contract to outsource the operation of most state office buildings outside of the state’s prison system and higher education system to the same company.

The state Department of General Services posted on its website last Tuesday a request for interested companies to submit information on a state proposal for “facilities management outsourcing.” The deadline for responding is Aug. 21, a relatively short response window for a project whose scope is extraordinarily broad.

The posting says that the purpose of the RFI is to obtain information regarding the management of University of Tennessee and Tennessee Board of Regents properties and state government facilities that are outside the scope of the state’s current contract with JLL.

“The scope of properties included in Gov. Haslam’s project covers all state-owned real estate, including properties managed by the Facilities Revolving Fund, general Tennessee government properties not covered by the Facilities Revolving Fund, the University of Tennessee System and the Tennessee Board of Regents,” the RFI posting says.

…Department of General Services spokesman David Roberson said Monday the RFI is “just part of an information-gathering process. There’s been no firm decision made about the issue involved. DGS is simply examining options for reducing administrative costs of state government… If the information we gather from vendors suggests this would be a good opportunity to pursue, then we’ll issue an RFP (request for proposals, or bids) and evaluate the proposals we receive.”

News of the discussion was given to physical plant employees at UT Knoxville in an Employee Relations Council meeting last week, according to United Campus Workers, which represents campus facilities employees at some state colleges and universities.

The group said “the dizzying scope of the RFI threatens to affect public services and tens of thousands of jobs across every county in Tennessee.

Tom Anderson, a purchaser in facilities at UT Knoxville, said, in a statement released through United Campus Workers, that the request for information’s scope “scope includes every person, and every job, for every building everywhere. Haslam wants to outsource our safety, health, and education to some for-profit, out-of-state company. All of the maintenance, all of the purchasing, all of the utilities, all of the human resources, all of the security, all of the cleaning, all of the administrative work in our schools, our courtrooms, our service agencies. It will hurt everyone.”

Thomas Walker, press coordinator for UCW, said that UT employees were told last week that the timeline for the outsourcing project calls for a contract to be signed by next June with the winning vendor beginning management of the buildings by July 1.