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Committee considers terminating cleaning company

Date: 12/8/2010

Dec. 8, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- The School Committee voted last week to offer the job of the School Department's budget director to the city's Finance Director Timothy Plante, but two members voiced concerns that Plante "won't be able to serve two masters."

Plante has been serving as the interim budget director for the past year. School Superintendent Dr. Alan Ingram advocated for the plan that would split Plante's time 58 percent for the School Department and 42 percent for the city.

There was no search for other candidates for the budget director position, something that clearly concerned School Committee member Antonette Pepe.

"Transparency? Was this posted so others could apply?" Pepe asked.

Pepe and fellow committee member Christopher Collins congratulated Plante for the job he has been doing and explained their criticisms were not about him, but the process and the combination of the two jobs.

Plante went though what he and his team have accomplished in the past year, which included dealing with a $16 million gap.

Collins said traditionally the School Department has needed its own budget director, as there have been clashes with the city over the financial issues.

Putting one person in both roles is "an almost untenable position," Collins said.

Although details of the contract were not discussed, Ingram said it clearly gives the School Committee the ability to terminate Plante's services. At which time he would return to working for the city full time.

Plante will now go into contract talks with the committee. The committee is considering dismantling a measure put in place by the former Finance Control Board and return the cleaning of the city's school back to the public sector.

According to preliminary information, the move might save the city some money.

The committee received a letter from Patrick Sullivan, executive director of the Department of Parks, Building and Recreation Management, detailing the requirements of switching back to city-hired cleaners.

Ingram told the committee that the information presented by Sullivan had not yet gone through a vetting process and Collins noted the information was being presented to the full committee before it came to the sub-committee in charge of such matters.

According to Sullivan's letter, Edu-Clean, the private firm brought in by the Finance Control Board, is charging the city $4,262,489 in fiscal year 2011 to clean the city's schools. Sullivan wrote that with hiring and training janitors and purchasing cleaning equipment and materials, the cost would be $4,132,652.

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