The Baltimore Board of Estimates approved $572,000 yesterday to hire two janitorial companies as part of a plan to privatize 41 Recreation and Parks Department custodial jobs.
The measure passed 3-to-2, with City Council President Sheila Dixon and Comptroller Joan M. Pratt casting the negative votes. They said they doubted the move would save the city much money.
"We're trying to balance the budget on the backs of the lowest-paid workers," Pratt said.
Dixon questioned whether the company employees would provide the same level of service as the city custodians.
Mayor Martin O'Malley voted to award the contracts without responding to arguments against privatization, as did his two appointees, Public Works Director George L. Winfield and City Solicitor Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr.
There is some dispute over how much money the city will save by privatizing the custodial jobs. The exact amount is not known because the contracts awarded yesterday do not cover all of the work performed by the 41 custodians. The city plans to award two more contracts separately.
Once those are awarded, Dixon said, she expects the contracts to total $1.1 million. She said it costs the city $1.3 million to use city workers, making the savings about $200,000 a year. Administration officials have put the savings at about $530,000 a year.
The vote came after a union official made a pitch to save the custodial jobs, most of which he said were held by single mothers.
"It's going to be a crisis for them," said Glenard S. Middleton Sr., president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 44.
The board awarded a $321,695 contract to Multicorp Commercial Cleaning, based in Westminster. It gave a $250,498.20 contract to Merit Building Contract Service of Baltimore County.
Multicorp was one of three companies hired last fall to provide custodial services in several city buildings.