W. James Hindman, the Jiffy Lube Inc. founder who turned his attention to helping juvenile delinquents, has been chosen to run Maryland's troubled Charles H. Hickey Jr. School, the Department of Juvenile Services announced yesterday.
If the contract is approved as expected by the Board of Public Works, Mr. Hindman's firm, Youth Services International of Owings Mills, will be the second private business to attempt running the facility in northeast Baltimore County.
The state has budgeted $18 million to operate Hickey in the next fiscal year, but the five-year contract with Youth Services is under negotiation and a dollar amount has not been reached, according to a department spokeswoman. Officials would not release the names of the three unsuccessful bidders until the Board of Public Works votes on the deal later this month.
The contract represents a second chance for Mr. Hindman, who also sought the opportunity to run Hickey in 1991.
That contract went to Rebound Corp. of Colorado, although Mr. Hindman, a longtime friend of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, complained that his bid was lower.
Mr. Hindman's company went on to win three other juvenile projects nationally -- including the Victor Cullen Center in northern Frederick County -- while the Rebound Corp. struggled with Hickey. A spate of escapes from unfenced areas of the reformatory campus helped to undermine Hickey's public image.
Last fall, the state and Rebound agreed to terminate their three-year $50 million contract. The state said the private agency had failed to turn Hickey around, while Rebound officials said the state had not lived up to its promises to cap the population and renovate outmoded buildings.
Youth Services officials have been assured that the population at Hickey, which sometimes soared well above 300, will be kept at 288 -- 148 in a secure, fenced area, 24 in a sex offenders unit, 72 in a low-security area and 48 in detention.
"There are four distinct programs at Hickey now, and this vendor had a well thought-out approach to all four programs," Juvenile Services Secretary Mary Ann Saar said. "Well thought-out and youth-oriented."
Officials at Youth Services declined to compare themselves directly with Rebound but did note that their headquarters are only a few miles from Hickey's Cub Hill campus.
"We are a local company and we can respond immediately to problems," said Joan Stephens, a Youth Services vice president. "We can make innovations quickly if a new approach is needed."
Ms. Stephens said Youth Services stresses "positive peer pressure" -- a widely used technique in which the youths are encouraged to monitor, and improve, each other's behavior. In fact, Rebound used this approach.
But Youth Services also would bring an emphasis on sports. Mr. Hindman, who once took time off from his business career to coach football at Western Maryland College, "feels it teaches discipline, and it teaches teamwork," Ms. Stephens said.
Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, in whose district the Hickey School is located, applauded the selection of Mr. Hindman's firm. "This could be a real plus, not just for the kids and the programs and the state, but for my neighborhood," he said.
Del. James E. McClellan, a Democrat from Frederick, also praised the firm's work in running the Victor Cullen Center.
Mr. Hindman has taken an unorthodox path to juvenile services. He made his first fortune in the nursing home industry, then took time off to coach football -- first at the Baltimore City Community College, then at Western Maryland.
According to corporate lore, Mr. Hindman started Jiffy Lube when challenged by a student to prove it was still possible to make a million dollars. Pennzoil took over the company in 1990. Mr. Hindman started Youth Services in 1991. Besides operating Victor Cullen, the firm has facilities in Knoxville, Tenn., and Clarinda, Iowa.