New janitors begin Monday

Come Monday, a new janitorial service, Somers Building Maintenance Group, will take over the brooms and brushes at Portland State, replacing long-time Portland Habilitation Center (PHC).

Somers Building Maintenance of Hillsboro was selected over five other companies that vied for the account, said Robyn Pierce, associate director of facilities and planning.

“We’re very pleased with the choice of SBM Group,” Pierce said. “The selection wasn’t based just on cost. We based the selection on a number of factors. SBM has a very good environmental record.”

PSU had been obligated by law to retain a janitorial service like Portland Habilitation Center because it makes jobs available to people needing rehabilitation. However, if the service is not deemed adequate, other contractors can be considered. This was the case with Portland Habilitation Center. Complaints about the cleaning job being done by their workers had become routine.

“We decided to go through a custodial review,” Pierce said. “We felt that [Portland Habilitation Center] was not meeting our requirements.”

The faculty senate had been demanding a change in service. One of those expressing the most dissatisfaction, Pierce said, was Michael Cummings, chair of the geology department. A campus survey found general dissatisfaction. The alternatives seemed to be to take the service in-house or seek another supplier.

Last spring, a committee was formed to study the problem. On March 6, the committee recommended that the university look elsewhere for its janitorial work if it was affordable. An open request for proposals followed. The six companies that submitted proposals were evaluated on their qualifications and ability to provide specified services.

The committee that decided the winner included members representing faculty, students, the Service Employees International Union, sustainability, campus public safety, auxiliaries and the office of facilities and planning. Jared Fisher was the student member. He is not an official of ASPSU.

Proposals were evaluated on their qualifications and ability to provide specified services, use of environmentally-friendly cleaning products, employee training and development, relevant experience, references and price.

The six-member committee reviewed the proposals and made its recommendation to Mike Irish, director of facilities and planning, and Cathy Dyck, interim vice president for finance and administration. They approved the choice. PSU had a 60-day agreement with PHC and November 1 became the day a new service would take over.

The contract calls for cleaning 1.4 million square feet of space on campus. Somers Building Maintenance will not be cleaning student housing. That is under contract to College Housing Northwest. The janitorial services for children at Helen Gordon Center and in the Smith Memorial Student Union are under contract to another service.

Portland Habilitation Center had 43 workers at the time of its termination. The new contractor will supply 45 workers. PSU was paying $113,009 a month, but Somers Building Maintenace will receive $115,680, slightly more than a 1 percent increase.

“We hope to have a much higher level of service,” Pierce said. “We would appreciate the patience of the community as we transition to a new custodial service,” Pierce said. “There will likely be a transition time as Somers Building Maintenance learns our campus and how the university operates. There are a lot of nuances in delivering the service to complicated spaces — offices, classrooms, labs. It will take a little time for the new service to understand it all.”

Portland Habilitation Center had almost 15 years to become accustomed to the variety of custodial needs.

Mindy Haverty, who had served intermittently as the university’s custodial supervisor, is settling back into her regular responsibilities as facilities project coordinator. The university will hire a new custodial coordinator. Applications for the position are open, and Pierce said an appointment likely will be announced in late November.

Work requests and other issues asking for the attention of SBM or Facilities and Planning may locate a work request form at order/index.html or by telephone at 503-725-8362.