Tennessee Weighs Outsourcing Care of Parks, Rest Stops — Maybe Even Universities | Nashville Public Radio

Tennessee Weighs Outsourcing Care of Parks, Rest Stops — Maybe Even Universities

Aug 17, 2015

Gov. Bill Haslam's administration is considering a plan to outsource maintenance of more public buildings, including perhaps state parks, rest areas and university buildings.

The move would go much further than Tennessee's controversial contract with a private firm to manage public office buildings.

The idea is still in its early stages. Last week, the Department of General Services floated the first trial balloon when it released a "request for information" from potential contractors.

But the scope could be wide. The document says potential services that could be privatized include security, cleaning, repairs and even recommending what facilities should be built in the future.

"It could conceivably include any of the services that would be involved in managing a building," said David Roberson, a spokesman for the department.

The idea is similar to the state's 2012 contract with Jones Lang LaSalle. That deal gave the private real estate management firm oversight of all of Tennessee's state office buildings.

This proposal would apply the same thinking to other public facilities that aren't under the direct control of the Department of General Services. That includes both the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Board of Regents System, as well as agencies like the Department of Transportation and Tennessee State Parks.

The state says private vendors can often manage properties cheaper. But Diana Moyer, president of the United Campus Workers union, says those savings won't come on paper towel purchases or energy efficient light bulbs.

"What it is, is paying people less and giving them less consistency in their hours and also reducing their benefits."

The state says it's too soon to know if that's where savings will occur. Roberson says General Services officials are just gathering information and will decide later whether to put any contracts up for bids.

But companies have only a few days to say how they believe the contracts should be designed. The state has set a deadline of next Monday for companies to say what kind of work they can or would want to do.