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Murray State Community Hears Pitches To Outsource Facilities Management

Liam Niemeyer

  Murray State University facilities management employees heard Tuesday the first of several company pitches to outsource some operations at the university.

The potential services included in the proposals are university maintenance, groundskeeping and janitorial services.


The university is looking to cut costs amid a potential future hike in state pension contributions, and the Board of Regents issued a “request for proposal” in September to seek facility services companies that could outsource.


“We have a committee, different representatives across campus, students, faculty, staff that are evaluating these proposals, and a part of that process is bringing in the top vendors to present to the campus and present to the committee,” said Jackie Dudley, Murray State Vice President of Finances and Administrative Services. 


The company presentation Tuesday was by representatives of Philadelphia-based Aramark. The Lexington-Herald Leader  reports Eastern Kentucky University signed a contract with Aramark in 2017 to outsource custodial and grounds staff, reportedly saving the university $5 million and cutting 180 employees. Paul Estes, Aramark National Director of Strategic Accounts, told WKMS those employees were rehired by the company and “put to work.”


“If this transition goes into place, we will offer opportunities to everyone in this room. You will become an Aramark employee,” said Aramark Regional Vice-President Brian Bilthuis at the forum. “Everybody that works here now, if we’re the chosen partner, will have the opportunity to apply for a job...but our fact and our matter is to keep every employee now doing what they’re doing.”


Aramark representatives laid out a case for why the university should choose the company for outsourcing, citing that the company serves more than 1,000 institutions, also claiming that opportunities exist for advancement within the company. 


Among some of the questions answered at the forum, Aramark said some in-house department supervisors may be kept at the university, while others might be brought in by the company. The time off in December given to staff by the university would be eliminated and replaced by accrued “paid time off” of an employee. 


42-year-old Bill Talmadge has worked in the university plumbing division for more than three years. He said a lot of the questions centered around whether sections of the department would be consolidated, with employees potentially performing multiple jobs.


“[Aramark] didn’t answer any of our questions. They basically just beat around the bush on most of everything,” said Talmadge. “I finally got in on a place that I thought I was going to grow and retire, have a good retirement, have good benefits for my family, maybe for my children to go to Murray State, get that paid for. And it’s not looking so good ever since I started. They’ve just done nothing but take away, take away, take away.”


Talmadge said he hopes the university ultimately chooses to not outsource facilities management at all. SSC Service Solutions from Knoxville, Tennessee, will hold a forum on Wednesday, Jones Lange LaSalle on Thursday, and Sodexo on Friday. All forums are at 1:30 p.m. CT in Wrather Hall. 


Jackie Dudley said after all the companies have presented in forums this week, the committee reviewing these presentations will meet again to eliminate company proposals considered unsuitable for the university. Based on the committee’s input, Dudley will make a recommendation to President Bob Jackson.


“Will we outsource some portion of our facilities? Will we outsource all of that? Or will we do nothing? That decision is still open until we hear from all of them, the committee gets back together, we continue to evaluate the financial proposals. There’s no final recommendations on the table yet,” Dudley said. 


The committee is made up of Dudley, the president of Staff Congress, president of the Faculty Senate, a head of one of the residential colleges, a student appointed by the Student Government Association, the executive director for Auxiliary Services, a representative from student affairs, three representatives from the department of facilities management, and the university human resources director.


Dudley said the committee plans to “take something” regarding a recommendation to the Murray State Board of Regents on December 13. She said in the case that the university decides to choose a company to outsource facilities management services, the university doesn’t know how many employees or which employees the chosen company will re-hire. 


But she said regardless, a potential company will be working with highly-skilled workers on campus, pointing to the university outsourcing dining services to Sodexo. 


“We understand how stressful this is on the campus and on the employees. This is a very difficult decision for the institution to make. We’ve prided ourselves on having great employees. Murray State is a good place to work, and if we outsource, people will still be working on Murray State’s campus,” Dudley said.


Find summaries of the other company presentations below. WKMS Reporter Dalton York contributed to these summaries.



Knoxville-based Services for Education, or SSC, offered their vision to the university community Tuesday in the second public forum regarding the potential outsourcing of facilities management. SSC Human Resources Director Shannon Thornton said the company will retain existing employees and look to expand staffing levels if granted the contract. She also said the company’s benefits packages will differ from the university’s. SSC, for example, will not offer tuition benefits currently given by the university. 



The third in a series of four public forums took place Wednesday. Executives with Chicago-based real estate firm JLL laid out a plan for a 90-day transition process that would include re-hiring current employees, training for all hires and assessment of equipment currently in Murray State’s possession. Employees impacted by the change would lose their current tuition benefits offered by the university.



The final in a series of four public forums took place Friday. Executives from Maryland-based Sodexo offered their vision, which includes new training for employees, preservation of existing pay scales and annual performance evaluations. Sodexo Human Resources Director Meaghan Crowley said years of service would be reset to zero for current employees. Sodexo said they’ll offer tuition benefits up to $2,500 per year. Sodexo has an existing contract with Murray State to provide on-campus dining services.

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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