Zoo Services Privatization Goes Back to the Drawing Board

Source: Lisa Kaiser, Express Milwaukee, April 29, 2015

Perhaps realizing that it was doomed before the full Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, the proposed contract to privatize the Milwaukee County Zoo’s food, catering and concessions services was sent back to committee for further revisions. A major sticking point for supervisors had been granting exclusive catering rights at the zoo to the Denver-based Service Systems Associates (SSA) as part of the proposed 10-year contract. Local caterers would be considered for just 10 zoo events annually. As a result of their concerns, the Finance, Personnel and Audit Committee voted 5-3 on April 16 to not recommend the contract….

Milwaukee County Zoo’s concessions may be privatized
Source: Georgia Pabst, Journal Sentinel, September 7, 2014

The Milwaukee County Zoo will consider privatizing its $5 million-a-year food service, catering and retail operations in the 2015 budget. The zoo issued a request for proposals in July and received six plans by the August deadline, said Charles Wikenhauser, the zoo director. A contract would be for five years. The six proposals were evaluated by a team of five — four zoo staff members and Rick Biddle, of Schultz & Williams, a Philadelphia consulting firm, Wikenhauser said.

Exclusive: Milwaukee County Zoo Food, Catering and Retail Concessions May Be Privatized / No public warning on fast-tracked bid requests
Source: Lisa Kaiser, Express, August 20, 2014

With no public discussion, the Milwaukee County Zoo offered a request for proposals (RFP) to operate and manage its lucrative food service, catering and retail operations from interested private vendors. … The RFPs were sent out on July 18, on-site visits were scheduled for July 30 and 31, and bids were due last Friday, Aug. 15. The five-year contract would begin Jan. 1, 2015, if the county decides to move forward with privatizing these operations, which generated $5.8 million in revenue in 2013. But you’d have to be an insider to know about this fast-tracked privatization plan. The matter never came before the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, nor was it included in last year’s budget….But the RFP is mentioned in the zoo’s 2015 budget request, drafted this summer, saying that the department is “in the process of evaluating whether a concessionaire for catering, novelty sales and concessions is more financially beneficial than running the operations in house.”… The Abele-backed Act 14, which stripped the board of much of its oversight of contracts, only allows the board to review contracts worth more than $300,000 once Abele decides to award a contract to a vendor. This RFP would seem to be worth far more than that, so it would appear that supervisors could review the final contract, if one is awarded….Little is said about the affected workers in the RFP, but it appears that they will become the employees of the operator, not the county. … McCamish called the zoo’s attitude toward its employees in the RFP “an afterthought.”…