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Thursday, June 19, 2008

City lacks Aramark successor

By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— As Aramark’s food service contract with city schools comes to an end July 1 and management moves in-house, the district has yet to hire a food service director or ink a contract with a facilities management firm.
While custodians had been pushing for similar in-house control of school maintenance over a management firm such as Philadelphia-based Aramark, it appears the district will not go that route.
"The management of this program by an outsider is a significant advantage and has saved us considerable money over the years on energy, et cetera," said school Chief Operating Officer Will Clark. "We have been under budget for the last many years and have not increased the budget at all. This is precisely the type of approach we need in tough budget times."
Four firms submitted bids to oversee school maintenance, including current contract holder Aramark, Branford-based OR&L Facility Services, Maryland-based Sodexo and Bridgeport-based AFB Construction Management.
The district is reviewing those bids and expects to make a determination "over the next week or so," Clark said.
"I have no concern about the capacity of whoever is selected to step in on day one," he said.
Clark’s comments disappointed Larry Dorman, spokesman for Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a vocal supporter of self-operation.
"We think outside contracting has been a disaster for the schools, a costly mistake for the taxpayers," said Dorman. "We believe the facility and maintenance operations should be taken in-house and we can help the school system accomplish that. There is absolutely no need to continue the mistakes that have happened."
Amidst growing concern and union discontent over Aramark performance, Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo announced earlier this year the district would re-bid the food service and facilities management contracts, both currently awarded to Aramark.
While the schools received interest from Aramark, New York-based Chartwells and New York-based Whitsons Culinary Group for the food service contract, the district ultimately decided to toss out those bids and hire a director to manage the program.
In the meantime, the district has begun preparing for lunches post-Aramark, entering into a coalition with other local schools to purchasing meat, bread and juice for the summer lunch and breakfast program.
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or ebenton@nhregister.com.

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