The Stevens Point Area Public School District Board will work to decide if it should sign another contract with CleanPower, a janitorial service, or look for services elsewhere. The current contract expires June 30.CleanPower presented the board with a contract Monday, March 31, but the board declined signing it on the grounds that the contract was incomplete and that more time is needed to consider other options. CleanPower will return at the April 14 meeting with a completed contract to seek the board’s approval.
Board member Jeff Presley said he was not comfortable signing a contract with many blank spaces on it.
Superintendent Atilla Weninger suggested the board sign the contract, contingent on their satisfaction with it at the next meeting. He said after the contract is signed the board has 30 days to terminate it. That option was voted down.
Kim Shirek said she has received more than 20 emails from community members complaining about CleanPower.
“I would like to see us change and go to another company and not do a five-year contract,” Shirek said. “I am hoping the board will look at all the emails we have received and not hire them (CleanPower) for another five years.”
Board member Bob Larson said it was not in the budget to change the program.
“We know we can’t afford to have a contract go away, we went through the RFP process like we were supposed to do and CleanPower came up first based on dollars and points,” said Bob Larson. “What do you want to do? Eliminate CleanPower? We can’t sustain it.”
The district uses a mix of contracted employees from CleanPower and its own custodial positions to clean the schools. The district keeps a mix of 60 percent district custodians and 40 percent contracted from CleanPower. By using contracted employees, the district saves approximately $1 million annually.
At the Dec. 16 board meeting, an anonymous document entitled “Daily Issues with CleanPower at SPASH” was presented to the board. The list included things such as exterior doors left unlocked, interior doors left unlocked, resulting in alarms being set off; missing tools, keys and food; locker rooms not cleaned and disinfected; employee turnover; smoking on campus; and late arrival and early leaving. The letter addressed 17 items in total and the board asked that administration respond to the problems.
Thomas Owens, the director of business services, reported back to the board Monday regarding the list of issues.
“We found no facts to substantiate or support the notion that any such things have occurred on a daily basis,” Owens said
Owens interviewed the custodial staff and addressed each of the issues mentioned on the list. Owens said some of the issues listed were too vague and unsubstantiated to address. He cited many of the issues as having occurred once or twice, but said they were dealt with at the time of the occurrence.
One issue not refuted was the high employee turnover.
“The frequency of turnover of CleanPower staff does vary,” Owens said. “Sometimes several people are replaced and at other time periods not so much.”
Regarding this list Weninger said he needs to make a decision based on facts as best as we can get them from the providers.
“I cannot not make a decision based on rumor and innuendo,” Weninger said
Several members of the public spoke at the March 11 board meeting, stating the board should not sign another contract with CleanPower.
Dave Somerscales, a representative from Service Employees International Union Local 1, a labor union based in Milwaukee, attended the March 11 and 31 meetings to speak against CleanPower.
“CleanPower has many accounts, they are paying poverty wages,” Somerscales said. “That brings down the cleaning standard for everybody when you set the bar so low. We wanted to make sure the school board and the surrounding community understood this is not a good company to do business with. This is about accountability and transparency.”
A representative from CleanPower declined to comment at the meeting but agreed to make a statement afterward.
“CleanPower has been engaged in a successful partnership with the Stevens Point school district for the past 10 years,” said Jana Rusk, vice president of human resources and safety for CleanPower. “This relationship has been consistently successful due to our strong local managers, extensive pre-employment background checks, ongoing training and development and our continued focus on safety.”