Confidential Timetable Puts Privatization On Fast Track
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Was the outsourcing of state facilities on a faster track than the Haslam administration has been willing to admit?
That's the question raised by an internal document uncovered by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
What it reveals is a timetable that could potentially turn the maintenance and operation of virtually all state buildings over to a big corporation in less than a year.
"I believe they understand that we and many legislators would oppose this plan and, therefore, they want to lull us into a sense of false security," said Randy Stamps, director of government affairs for the Tennessee State Employees Association.
Last week, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam insisted no decision has been made about turning the maintenance and operation of college and university buildings over to a private corporation, along with potentially state prisons and all sorts of other government facilities.
That came after the state issued a Request For Information (RFI) to potential vendors.
"Let's wait and see," Haslam told reporters. "Let's wait and see what the results are."
But the TSEA says the confidential timetable, obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, suggests the administration itself isn't waiting to see.
What had been known was that responses to the administration's RFI were due on August 21st.
But the confidential timetable shows officials planned to immediately begin creation of a Request For Qualifications (RFQ). That's how the state would pick the companies that would be allowed to bid.
That RFQ would be due in the Governor's Office less than six weeks from now -- and released to the public just two weeks later.
By mid-February, the state would provide notice of the companies that would be allowed to bid.
A formal solicitation for the final contract would be issued May 30th, with bids due from those companies just two weeks later.
By July 5th, the state would announce which company would be awarded the job.
The final contract would be signed on Aug. 1, 2016, according to the timetable. (View the timetable here.)
Department of General Services spokesperson David Roberson said "tentative schedules for possible future events are developed all the time by various state offices and do not constitute a commitment to hold an event."
But Randy Stamps sees it differently.
"I believe it's a clear indication that they want it to be a done deal," the TSEA rep said. "This administration has historically tried to privatize everything they can."
In fact, Haslam's administration has recently issued a separate invitation for companies to bid on a contract to privatize hospitality operations at 11 state parks.
It's an approach that the governor referenced in his recent exchange with reporters.
"In the state park business, we run marinas and golf courses and restaurants. I'm not sure that's a core competency of state government is running golf courses," he explained.
Still, it's a move that causes the State Employees Association even more concern.
"If we let the Marriotts of the world take over our state parks, we worry about the affordability to average citizens to go and stay in a state park," Stamps said.
As for the facilities management contract, the governor's spokesperson, Dave Smith, said that Haslam is committed to what he called "a thoughtful and deliberate process," again insisting that "no decisions have been made, and there is no timeline from the Governor's Office."
Meanwhile, under the confidential timetable prepared by others in the administration, none of the information being submitted by these companies would become public until next summer.
That would be well after the legislature has adjourned for the year.