6 companies bid for contract to run Hickey school


ANNAPOLIS -- Six companies have bid for a chance to run Maryland's school for juvenile delinquents, and the state is considering putting a second juvenile services program into private hands, Juvenile Services Secretary Nancy S. Grasmick told state legislators yesterday.

Mrs. Grasmick said state procurement regulations prohibit her from disclosing the names of the companies that bid this week for the five-year contract to run the 215-acre Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Baltimore County.

But she said she was pleased so many companies had shown interest in taking over the troubled state-run school -- given the relatively short period of time private firms had to prepare their bids. About two dozen firms from across the country sent representatives to a pre-bid conference in May.

The bids now will be evaluated by separate technical and financial teams and a preliminary recommendation will be made to her by late next week, she said. The state then will enter into final negotiations with the leading bidder or bidders, with the hope of taking a signed contract -- which could be worth as much as $80 million to the winner -- to the Board of Public Works for final approval in late July.

"We speculated there would be only one or two [bidders] because of the magnitude of the contract and were very pleased with six," she said.

After a brief transition period, the state hopes to turn over the 350-student school to the private contractor by Sept. 1. Hickey became an all-male facility last month when female offenders incarcerated there were permanently moved to a juvenile center in Prince George's County still known, ironically, as Boys Village, she said.

If private proposals to run Hickey do not meet expectations, Mrs. Grasmick insisted she will recommend that they all be rejected and that the state continue to run the school, at least for now.

At a briefing before a House Appropriations subcommittee, she also disclosed that Juvenile Services officials are tentatively looking for a private firm to run a new program for juveniles at the Victor Cullen Center in Sabillasville, north of Thurmont. Victor Cullen had been operated by the state health department as a training center for retarded citizens but is to be closed at the end of this month for cost-saving reasons.

Mrs. Grasmick said her department intends to spend $500,000 renovating the facility for a new program for approximately 50 juveniles that would take advantage of the nearby Catoctin Mountains. The program, she said, would employ an outdoors curriculum intended to build self-esteem.

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