Workers open to company's efficiency plans


The people who clean and care for Harford County schools aren't endorsing a proposal by a private contractor to save the school system as much as $1.8 million in energy costs but say they are open to Johnson Controls Inc.'s suggestions.

The board has heard from two private companies -- the other is ServiceMaster Service Management Co. -- in an effort to find ways to run its facilities and construction departments more efficiently.

Johnson Controls' proposals include: more efficient lighting, replacing boilers with less expensive natural-gas boilers, combining laundry facilities and installing controls that cut energy use during off hours.

The company would bring in its own engineers and specialists to make repairs and maintain upgraded equipment.

"When we take over a building for performance contracting, it is now going to operate efficiently and comfortably," said John Cavanaugh, a Johnson Controls account executive.

The company studied Fallston, Harford Technical and Joppatowne high schools, and Magnolia and North Harford middle schools.

The work and other changes the company suggests eventually would save more than $262,000 a year in energy costs in the five schools, according to a Johnson Controls report. It now costs more than $1 million a year to run the schools.

Thomas Kelleher, senior staff representative of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents the 350 workers in the facilities department, said he has an open mind about the company's proposal.

"This kind of report does not hurt people, and that is what we are about," Mr. Kelleher said.

And the company has a good record of improvements in Carroll County, he said.

Some workers prefer finding ways of increasing efficiency without bringing in an outside company.

"We wonder why these items are not considered when we suggest them," said Charles "Chuck" Tipton, a heating and air-conditioning mechanic with the school system.

He said current standards of saving energy -- turning off lights in unused classrooms and leaving thermostats at a constant temperature -- should be enforced before the board hires a private company.

The workers strongly oppose a ServiceMaster plan that would eliminate positions through attrition and save an estimated $900,000 in maintenance, custodial and construction costs.

The bulk of the savings in that plan was produced by cutting energy costs. But profits were linked to employee wages, giving the company an incentive to eliminate positions, some workers said.

ServiceMaster proposed eliminating 27 1/2 custodial, maintenance and construction positions through attrition.The company would bring in six managers and a secretary to run a reorganized facilities department, including a construction division.

The company proposed to buy less expensive supplies and more efficient equipment, and to train employees to do a greater variety of jobs.

An in-house review of the facilities and construction departments, which was to have been presented to the school board tomorrow, was pushed back to Oct. 9 so that the union can participate.

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