- Associated Press - Thursday, October 19, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A bid to outsource facilities management at Tennessee colleges and universities would cost the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga a quarter-million dollars more than its current expenses in-house.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle acknowledged in documents that it would cost the university $263,217 more to use the for-profit company’s services for combined institutional maintenance and student housing.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has awarded the Chicago-based company a statewide contract to pitch its services to individual higher education institutions. The governor has pushed for the increased privatization of services despite misgivings among a large number of state lawmakers.

It’s up to each campus to decide whether to participate in the outsourcing plan, and UTC Chancellor Steve Angle hasn’t said if the university will contract for the services. The Chattanooga City Council earlier this week voted unanimously to oppose any outsourcing at the university.

“I think it makes a strong statement that city councils, faculty senates and student government associations across the state, as well as grassroots people and workers, have publicly spoken out against the outsourcing,” said Jared Story, an administrative assistant with University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Housing and Residence Life, as well as a member of United Campus Workers.

Jones Lang LaSalle in its presentation to the school said that “based on our site tours of the UTC campus, data provided to JLL, and available scope limitations, we have not identified cost reduction opportunities within the main campus.”

Company officials noted that they had “identified modest annual savings” in the housing realm of about $42,000.

According to the company’s breakdown, its governance costs and items for management and a service desk would cause its costs to be higher than what UTC spends. But JLL said it would expect to find more savings over time as it learned about operations.

The company also noted that the school doesn’t have the ability to run some services like heating and air conditioning and the physical plant.

“The removal of several core facility management functions reduces synergies and dilutes our ability to deliver overall savings, which impacts our projected savings in the proposal to UTC,” Tom Foster, a Jones Lang LaSalle executive vice president and account director for the state of Tennessee account, said in a statement.

University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro told the newspaper recently that all five UT campus proposals have been submitted and that “each of those chancellors are going to have to come into our board meeting - obviously with my concurrence - and say, ‘Here’s the proposal. Here’s what we’re recommending and here’s our justification for our position.”

State Rep. Mike Carter, a Chattanooga Republican who once supported more outsourcing, said his experience with Jones Lang LaSalle’s management of the legislative office complex has led him to conclude that “theory often doesn’t meet practice.” He cited an inability to keep restrooms stocked as an example of where service has been lacking.

“Think about it,” he said. “If they don’t provide soap and towels to the very people who vote on their contract, what will they do to the people who have no say?”

As the General Assembly moves to a new building next month, legislative leaders have said they’ve opened up the facilities management contract to various other companies for bids.


Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, https://www.timesfreepress.com

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