Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Aramark loses city schools contract

By Maria Garriga
Register Staff
— The Board of Education Monday voted to give AFB Construction Management of Bridgeport the schools facilities management contract for $1.08 million.
"We’re ready to move tomorrow. We’ve started working from our first interview," said Alfonso Barbarotta, AFB’s president and chief executive officer.
AFB beat out Aramark Inc. of Philadelphia, which had held the contract for 14 years, as well as OR&L Facility Services in Branford and Sodexo in Maryland.
The board’s action authorizes the chief operating officer, William Clark, to negotiate a contract with AFB effective July 1.
Clark said the board’s selection committee unanimously recommended AFB. An offer to create a work order system customized for New Haven and increase staff training gave AFB the edge over its competition, he said.
Clark also said that AFB had a track record of working well with union employees.
"We have to increase employee morale. We have to increase their desire to put in a work order and know that it is going to get done," Clark said. "In the end, this is a team, and it’s only going to work that way."
Board member Richard Abbatiello said AFB’s local presence will give it another advantage in managing.
"It’s all relationships," he said.
Clark added that AFB will have a night supervisor on site instead of on call, as Aramark did, in order to work more closely with the custodians; three quarters of the custodians work at night.
AFB will oversee the heating, cooling and lighting systems, as well manage the custodians and maintain the buildings.
The board decision marked a partial victory for Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 287, which represents 200 custodians and wanted the board to oust Aramark and bring maintenance operations back under district supervision.
Several unions nationally have been fighting to push Aramark out of school facilities management contracts.
"Ultimately, we hope to be self-operational, but we respect the decision and we will work in good faith with AFB," said Larry Dorman, Council 4 spokesman.
Clark said that while taking the maintenance operations back in-house had been considered, the timing is off. District officials are already working to absorb food services operations, run by Aramark, for the past 14 yearsand doing both at the same time could prove difficult.
The board decided to manage the food services with an in-house director because the program had a $1.9 million deficit, while the maintenance contract essentially paid for itself through cost-savings.
Maria Garriga can be reached at mgarriga@nhregister.com or 789-5726.

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