PSU ends janitorial contract

By the end of this week, Portland State will have a new janitorial service, to replace Portland Habilitation Center.

Associate Director of Facilities Robyn Pierce said a new service will be chosen by the end of this week.

“By mutual agreement, we are severing the relationship for three years, beginning Oct. 31,” Pierce said.

Pierce said Portland Habilitation Service had been the university’s janitorial service for almost 15 years.

Mike Irish, Director of Facilities, concurred in Pierce’s assessment.

“We were continually running into problems,” he said.

“It was mutually agreed upon,” Pierce said. “We had lots of performance issues.”

The center specializes in hiring staff from the ranks of people in need of some kind of rehabilitation. Previous stories in the Vanguard have revealed dissatisfaction with the service.

One issue has been janitorial work not getting done because of absenteeism of employees.

Pierce said, absenteeism or not, “We still get charged the same for the service. We pay $1.4 million a year.” The university felt it was not getting full value in service for that amount, she added.

Anne O’Malley, public affairs director for Portland Habilitation Center, expressed regret at the end to the relationship.

“We regret the change in contracts,” she said. “We wish PSU the best in all future endeavors.” She added that she, herself, is a graduate of Portland State.

Dissatisfaction with Portland Habilitation Center has been brewing for some time. Last April, the Vanguard reported the university’s dissatisfaction with the service. The contract had been retained under a 1977 law under which the university was obligated to hire staff from Portland Habilitation Center, which employs only people with disabilities. This law had the stipulation that the hiring of services from a Qualified Rehabilitation Service when the product or service meets their requirements. At that time, the center had similar contracts with OHSU, Portland Public Schools and Portland International Airport.

At that time Mindy Haverty, PSU custodial coordinator, called the level of performance by the PHC workers “deplorable.” At that time Debbie Houston, vice president of building maintenance for the Portland Habilitation Center, said much of the problem lies in the lack of funding for custodial services at PSKU. She said at one time PSU had as many as 80 janitors or staff but that had been reduced to about 40.

At that time, Houston said the not-for-profit company would like the university to pay another $300,000 a year. She said the university had asked for a specific upgrade in the type of service provided.