Tag Archives: Tennessee

The Woman Standing in the Way of the Privatization of Thousands of Jobs in Tennessee Was Just Fired

Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, May 7, 2018

A university chancellor who took a controversial stand to protect the jobs of thousands of public workers has now lost her own. University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport was abruptly fired from her post last week, in a move representatives for unionized campus workers are calling another step toward the privatization of thousands of facilities management jobs. The battle in Tennessee pits the state’s GOP governor, Bill Haslam, against its public workers, and UT-Knoxville is where the workers, backed by a student movement, have made their stand. The workers see Davenport’s firing as an effort to remove a key obstacle to privatization. …

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Public Workers Worried That Tennessee’s Billionaire Governor Is Taking Another Run at Them
Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, April 4, 2018

Last year, Tennessee’s governor attempted a frontal assault on the unionized workers that staff the state’s facilities and management jobs at public buildings, two-thirds of which are state-run colleges. Gov. Bill Haslam, the richest U.S. elected official not named Donald Trump, signed a contract with a facilities management firm to privatize those jobs. But a prodigious campaign by the campus employee union and student activists led to nearly the entire University of Tennessee system publicly opting out of the contract. … But Haslam appears to have found a work-around. The Tennessee legislature is on the verge of passing a bill to overhaul the University of Tennessee’s entire board of trustees, allowing Haslam to hand-pick the replacements. That board could pressure campuses to opt back into the privatization contract at any time over the next four years. …

How a Scrappy Campus Union Saved Tennessee From Privatization
Source: Chris Brooks and Rebecca Kolins Givan, In These Times, March 20, 2018

… The resulting $1.9 billion contract was the largest in Tennessee government history, and privatized the maintenance and management of up to 90 percent of state-run facilities, including state and university buildings. It was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a multinational with a history of bribery accusations. … What the privatizers didn’t plan for was the United Campus Workers (UCW), a scrappy higher education union affiliated with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). Public-sector unions in Tennessee are legally barred from engaging in collective bargaining, and the state has no obligation to recognize or negotiate with them. Instead, the union relies on a mixture of legislative advocacy, workplace actions and mass mobilizations. Few unions exist in a harsher political and legal environment, yet the UCW is punching far above its weight, increasing its membership while securing victories against better-funded foes. …

Workers’ unlikely victory over outsourcing in Tennessee
Source: Elizabeth Stanfield and Jon Shefner, Facing South, February 6, 2018
 
Last fall, United Campus Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 3865 (UCW) achieved an important victory for organized labor’s fight against privatization and erosion of public-sector jobs. For more than two years, they campaigned to stop Tennessee’s billionaire Republican governor, Bill Haslam, from outsourcing all state facilities service jobs. Their campaign involved multiple constituencies and tactics and played a key role in the University of Tennessee system’s decision not to participate in the outsourcing contract. The fact that this victory was won in a red state by a union without collective bargaining or dues check off is a powerful reminder of what organized workers can achieve against great odds. This victory is worth paying attention to because it reminds us that even in the face of tremendous obstacles, organized workers can win. …

University of Tennessee campuses will not outsource facilities jobs
Source: Rachel Ohm, USA TODAY, October 31, 2017

In a move celebrated by state workers on college campuses, University of Tennessee administrators announced Tuesday they will not be participating in a proposed facilities outsourcing plan pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam. The announcements by UT Chattanooga, UT Knoxville, UT Martin and the UT Health Science Center ended more than two years of speculation about whether campuses in the UT system would participate in the plan. …

Council urges Univ. of Memphis to decline state outsourcing contract
Source: Michelle Corbet, Memphis Business Journal, September 20, 2017

With the University of Memphis’ next Board of Trustees meeting set for early October, members of the Memphis City Council are asking that the group think twice before opting into the state’s facilities management contract. It’s no secret the University of Memphis plans to opt into the state’s property management contract, said Councilman Martavius Jones, who sponsored a resolution Sept. 19 urging local universities and their administrators to do the opposite. In May, the State of Tennessee entered into a contract with Chicago-based JLL to privatize maintenance, security, janitorial and landscaping services for state-owned public colleges and universities. “Based on my experience on the school board, the quality of the service, the cleanliness and the general morale suffered [when outsourced],” said Jones, who served on the Memphis City Schools Board from 2006 to 2013. …

Does Outsourcing Some State Jobs Save TN Taxpayers Money?
Source: Local Memphis, August 31, 2017
 
Many Tennessee lawmakers hope to see if outsourcing some state jobs actually saves taxpayers money. It’s been a controversial topic since Governor Bill Haslam began implementing the idea a few years ago.  Questions about outsourcing are always the same. Does it save money and is there accountability?  “There’s… people concerned about state jobs all over Tennessee,” said one protester.  Many state lawmakers have heard and seen the protests about the ongoing outsourcing of state jobs. That’s why a majority of legislators from both parties signed a letter of concern earlier this year to Governor Haslam. The Governor has defended outsourcing state jobs in some areas, especially on state college campuses. …

UT campus workers protest Gov. Haslam’s outsourcing plan
Source: WBIR, August 28, 2017

University of Tennessee Knoxville staff, faculty and students joined local business leaders, state representatives and faith leaders in a demonstration Monday to call on university officials to “opt-out” of Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing plan. The demonstration was organized by United Campus Workers. Last week, a bill to introduce oversight in outsourcing was heard in summer study in the General Assembly. If the university were to “opt-in”, United Campus Workers believe as many as 10,000 facilities jobs, including hundreds in Knoxville, would be outsourced. Those who oppose the plan fear it will result in job loss, loss of oversight and accountability, reduced services and negative consequences for local businesses which provide services to campuses. …

Outsourcing is not working and it hurts working Tennesseans
Source: Dwayne Thompson, Tennessean, August 10, 2017
 
Since August 2015, Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration has pushed a radical experiment in outsourcing that would turn thousands of state facilities workers jobs, millions of square feet of Tennesseans’ real estate, and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to the multinational giant JLL.   There has been widespread opposition to the outsourcing plan. Facilities services workers, faculty, and staff have significant concerns that outsourcing will compromise the quality of services on which effective teaching, research and service rely.  Students have spoken up about fears for safety if a revolving workforce replaces the workers they know and trust. …

Tennessee Inks Collaborative Facilities Management Contract With JLL
Source: Kate Vitasek, Forbes, June 29, 2017
 
The state of Tennessee has signed a facilities management contract to help the state provide the best service to citizens and employees at the lowest possible cost for taxpayers.  The contract was awarded to Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) for five years with up to five one-year extensions. It allows the state of Tennessee’s various agencies and institutions to utilize JLL’s professional facilities management services. The potential scope covers over 7,500 state run properties spanning 97 million square feet. …

Controversial state plan to outsource college jobs moves forward
Source: Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean, May 26, 2017

Tennessee moved forward with a controversial plan to outsource jobs at public colleges Friday when officials finalized a contract with a corporation that already handles a sizable amount of state business.  Under the contract, JLL — which currently manages about 10 percent of state facilities — will oversee the potential expansion of outsourcing at college campuses, state parks and prisons. It is a pivotal moment for the proposed expansion, which has been in the works for two years. …

Majority of lawmakers ask state to slow down on outsourcing
Source: Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean, May 2, 2017

Seventy-five state lawmakers have signed a letter urging Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration to postpone a plan to outsource jobs on college campuses and other state-owned property, delivering yet another blow to the controversial proposal. In the letter to Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin, signed by Republicans and Democrats from both chambers, the lawmakers ask to delay the outsourcing plan to allow “enough time to address concerns from the General Assembly.” … This is only the latest sign of deep reservations surrounding the project, which Haslam has championed against wide-ranging criticism for more than a year. Workers’ rights advocates, including a union representing campus workers, have blasted Haslam for prioritizing money over state workers and their families. College leaders have predicted the change would hurt services on campus. …

Tennessee’s billionaire governor works with his corporate buddies to privatize government jobs
Source: David Dayen, The Intercept, April 27, 2017
 
Tennessee’s state government has inked a sweetheart deal with a company linked to the state’s billionaire governor to privatize thousands of facilities and management jobs at colleges, prisons, and other public buildings.  It’s being touted by some officials in other states as a model for the nation.  The $330 million, five-year contract covers custodial services, groundskeeping, and repair and maintenance work. Government officials say that each public facility can choose to only partially comply, or opt out, keeping their employees on the public payroll. “If they’re happy with business as usual, there’s nothing to do,” said Michelle Martin, a spokeswoman for the office that issued the contract. …

Jones Lang LaSalle Wins Bid for Haslam’s Campus Outsourcing
Source: Associated Press, March 30, 2017

Real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle has been selected as the winning bidder for Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to privatize property management on the campuses of the Tennessee’s public colleges and universities. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports (http://bit.ly/2nwO7Dh) the Chicago-based company that already manages a large number of general state government buildings beat out proposals by Aramark and Compass Group. It’s not yet clear how many campuses will choose to participate in the privatization plan. Final cost details won’t be known until the five-year contract is signed. …

Officials say state outsourcing is working, but plenty of skepticism remains
Source:Jake Lowary, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee, March 8, 2017

Despite $26 million in savings reported by state administration officials, some lawmakers and state employees remain skeptical or outright opposed to Gov. Bill Haslam’s effort to privatize many state agencies or operations within state government. Privatization of facility management, especially at public colleges and universities, has been a sort of sidecar initiative of Haslam for the past three years, in an effort to make state government more efficient and reduce costs. But many state workers still fear they will either lose their job or the areas that some have committed their lives to will suffer in quality. Larry Martin, state finance commissioner, was flanked by several officials from his department and told a Senate Oversight and Investigations Committee on Wednesday that the governor’s plan is working.

… Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, said he’s not been able to fully ascertain how the state arrives at the data it does regarding its overall savings, and requested that information from Martin and Hull. He questioned the data, specifically as it relates to the labor force, where the savings have not come. … Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, also questioned the notion of privatization, saying that it’s almost impossible for the state to restart or regain the management of those services once they’ve been outsourced to private companies. Representatives from the United Campus Workers offered some of the sharpest criticism to the privatization proposal from Haslam’s office, which has yet to be finalized and was indefinitely delayed last week. Melanie Barron, an organizer with UCW, said the request for proposal laid out by Haslam is “rife with loopholes” and despite promises from Haslam and other state leaders that agencies will be able to opt out of the RFP, little clarity about how to opt out has been provided. … The RFP for public facility management, which is separate from a different RFP to manage Fall Creek Falls State Park facilities, closed at the end of February. The state intends to issue a letter of intent to award at the end of March, Martin said. …

Opinion: Outsourcing state jobs hurts Tennessee
Source: Rep. John Ray Clemmons, The Tennessean, December 20, 2016

Gov. Bill Haslam is gambling with our tax dollars and Tennesseans’ lives. His outsourcing scheme involves eliminating up to 17 percent of current state employees’ jobs at state college and universities, parks and elsewhere. Outsourcing public jobs will result in great profits for private corporations but less oversight, lower quality, and the elimination of all accountability for citizens. The tragic school bus accident in Chattanooga is an unfortunate illustration of this fact. Hamilton County Schools contracted with Durham School Services, a private company, to operate its school buses. After 36 injury crashes in Tennessee since 2014, Durham was still transporting children. … Haslam’s steadfast outsourcing efforts, in the face of statewide opposition, stand in stark contrast to his other endeavors. For instance, his administration spent 18 months crafting Insure Tennessee, a plan supported by a majority of Tennesseans. Though Haslam publicly professed a passion for the cause, he exerted such little effort behind the scenes that he willingly raised the white flag to a vocal minority within his own party after less than three days of a special session. … These lackadaisical efforts on healthcare and transportation are easily contrasted with Haslam’s exhaustive efforts on outsourcing, a solution in search of a problem. Our governor created a new office focused solely on outsourcing and focused the bulk of his energies on an effort to pay private corporations hundreds of millions of dollars to perform jobs that state employees already do well and reliably. …

Democrats Say Nashville Firm Reviewing Benefits Of Outsourcing Is Too Close To Haslam
Source: Chas Sisk, Nashville Public Radio, December 12, 2016

Tennessee Democrats say they’re still not sold on the benefits of potentially outsourcing thousands of state jobs at college campuses, parks and prisons. They’re calling for yet another round of analysis on the proposal, even though two so far have found it could save the state more than $35 million a year. State officials were the first to come up with that estimate for what Tennessee could save from privatizing jobs currently done by public employees. But when questions were raised about their analysis’s validity, Nashville-based KraftCPAs stepped in. And after reviewing the state’s calculations for several weeks, the firm has decided Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration was more or less correct. That doesn’t satisfy state Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis. He wants an out-of-state firm brought in to take a third look. He notes that Kraft has done work for Haslam’s campaign and that some Kraft employees have made donations to it — connections, Democrats say, call Kraft’s independence into question. …

Haslam administration: Review confirms outsourcing savings
Source: Associated Press, November 22, 2016

An outside firm hired by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration agrees that privatizing maintenance work at public colleges and universities could save $35 million per year. Haslam’s outsourcing advisers and consultants have touted the outsourcing plan as a way to save money while protecting the jobs of all currently employed campus maintenance workers who are deemed to be “qualified and productive.” The outside review was conducted by KraftCPAs PLLC.

Outsourcing state services doesn’t save taxpayers money
Source: Randy Stamps, Knoxville News-Sentinel, November 19, 2016

Saving taxpayer money is the main selling point behind every proposal to outsource a state service. But, when analyzed, outsourcing is often found to be more expensive than promised. For example, in January 2012 the state paid Jones Lang LaSalle $1 million to assess the condition and management of state properties. That November, the state expanded JLL’s contract to include procuring outside leases, a job previously handled by state employees. JLL would also receive a 4 percent commission on any leases it procured. By April 2013, funding for the contract had increased from $1 million to $7.6 million. In June 2013, Tennessee signed a $330 million, five-year contract with JLL to outsource the facilities management of all state buildings. In November of 2013, the state comptroller found JLL’s contract “created an organizational conflict of interest whereby Jones Lang LaSalle can profit from its own planning recommendations.” … In 2014, the state signed a $276 million contract with Trousdale County for a 2,400-bed private prison for Corrections Corporation of America. This contract also includes a 90 percent occupancy guarantee for CCA for per diem fees, which means if the private prison doesn’t remain above 90 percent occupied, taxpayers will pay per diem fees for empty beds. The contract also guarantees annual 2.5 percent operating per diem rate increases. In contrast, state employees do not receive guaranteed pay increases. … Tragically, in July, a man committed suicide by jumping off the Tennessee Tower in Downtown Nashville. According to a WSMV report, “Security at the tower falls under the state’s General Services division. They contract with private security companies Walden Security and Allied Barton.” In August, an accident at a Tennessee county fair sent three children plummeting 45 feet to the ground, severely injuring one. The Associated Press reported, “The state relies on private inspectors hired by operators and other states’ regulators to determine whether roller coasters, zip lines and Ferris wheels are safe.” State employees used to handle this work. In conclusion, as taxpayers, we must ask harder questions and demand more oversight on any contracts that outsource a state service. The notion of cost savings from outsourcing is simply no longer credible.

America’s Richest Politician Is Putting Thousands of Jobs at Risk
Source: Donald Cohen, The Huffington Post, October 14, 2016

Donald Trump isn’t the only one who won’t release his tax returns. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, whose family owns the Pilot Flying J chain of truck stops, has refused to release his since running and being elected in 2010. It wouldn’t matter so much if Haslam were your run-of-the-mill governor. But he’s the country’s richest politician, with a net worth of $2 billion. … It matters because Haslam has a plan that could plunge thousands of state workers into poverty. Since being elected, he’s slowly handed over management and operation of public buildings to a private company. All state-owned real estate is on the chopping block—from college campuses and prisons to state parks. The company, the Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle, is the world’s second largest commercial real estate brokerage. While running for office in 2010, Haslam held a financial stake in the company. He might still be invested but we don’t know for sure—he’s since placed many of his investments in a blind trust. The governor clearly hasn’t read our new report, How privatization increases inequality. …
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More Tennessee trouble for Nashville based CoreCivic prison

Source: Associated Press, September 19, 2017

Tennessee corrections officials have fined a private prison company $43,750 because of problems it had counting inmates at a jail it operates, according to state documents. The state Department of Correction levied the penalty against CoreCivic in May over breach of contract due to the woes at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, a medium-security lockup in Hartsville that holds up to 2,552 male inmates, a letter released in a public records request shows. … According to state reports, officers weren’t counting correctly; inmates weren’t in the correct cells; and, in most cases, only one worker was counting inmates without another standing watch. The reports also said it was taking too long for officers to count and inmates were allowed to move around during count time. …

Harwell: No Privatization of Tennessee Park Services as Gov

Source: Associated Press, September 14, 2017

Republican gubernatorial candidate Beth Harwell says she won’t privatize services at Tennessee state parks if she is elected governor. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that Harwell’s position is at odds with term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam’s longtime pursuit of outsourcing more functions at the parks. Harwell, who is the speaker of the state House of Representatives, said privatizing hospitality, food and other services at state parks is a “touchy point for our rural areas,” and that she would not pursue Haslam’s goals in that area. …

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Haslam leaves privatizing state park management decision to next Tennessee governor
Source: Andy Sher, Times Free Press, August 24, 2017
 
The Haslam administration is abandoning all efforts to outsource management of Fall Creek Falls State Park and other state parks and will instead leave the volatile issue of privatizing operations to Tennessee’s next governor.  State Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau made the announcement Thursday during an appearance before a legislative study committee taking a critical look at administration outsourcing across state government. …

Judge rules Tennessee must release outsourcing records about Fall Creek Falls purchase
Source: Associated Press, June 29th, 2017

A judge has ruled in favor of a media group that sued the state of Tennessee to release records about its attempt to outsource services at Fall Creek Falls State Park. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government says Davidson County Chancellor Bill Young on Tuesday ruled that the state must produce records to City Press Communications LLC, parent company of the Nashville Scene and the Nashville Post, and reporter Cari Wade Gervin. …

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Mayor Barry looks at privatizing Nashville airport to generate transit funds 

Source: Joey Garrison & Nate Rau, The Tennessean, June 26, 2017 

Mayor Megan Barry’s administration is exploring the privatization of the city-operated Nashville International Airport to an outside management company to generate funding for mass transit in Middle Tennessee. The mayor’s office confirmed hearing a presentation in May from representatives of Oaktee Capital Management, a California-based hedge fund that has also made bids to run city-operated airports in other cities. …

Faison bill would force review of Mt. View proposal

Source: Steve Marion, Standard Banner, March 21, 2017

The state House government operations committee will consider a bill next week calling for legislative review of contracts such as the one proposed by the Department of Children’s Services for privatization of Mountain View Youth Development Center. Meanwhile, Jefferson County Commission added its voice to the chorus of concerns regarding the DCS’s plan. … Faison submitted an amendment March 8 to his House Bill 224, which requires DCS to appear before the government operations committee regarding its performance audit. The amendment states that a contract entered into by a state agency such as the one to privatize Mountain View must be reviewed by the fiscal review committee. Faison, who chairs the government operations committee, said he has temporarily taken the bill off notice until a meeting next Wednesday due to an unrelated matter.

… The primary option under consideration by the state involves contracting with a current DCS provider to open a 60-bed “Level Three” facility at Mountain View. That portion would be “staff secure.” Youth would have more freedom inside the facility than at present. At the same time, the private provider would operate up to 24 hardware-secure beds in Charlie Unit, keeping youth behind steel doors and a razor-wire fence. … Miller said in late February that state officials plan to select a contractor for the facility before the end of the fiscal year June 30. DCS says the state can save $3 million on the plan – funds that can be used for “prevention services.” Local Youth Services Officer Barry Fain questioned that and other DCS motivations in appearances before Dandridge Council and Commission last week. …

Knox County family sues Rural/Metro for death of son

Source: Kelly Reinke, WATE, February 24, 2017

An East Tennessee family is suing Rural/Metro for the death of their 14-year-old son. Andrew Merrell died in a car accident in Corryton in 2016. The family said Rural/Metro did not have the right tools to save their son. … The lawsuit said responders did not have the necessary equipment to get Andrew Merrell out of the car and because of that he died. … Jones said some Rural/Metro stations have this equipment, big saws commonly referred to as the “jaws of life.” He also said Rural/Metro dispatched a unit 30 minutes away from the crash that did not have these tools. “There was a station that was three miles away from the Grainger County lines that could have provided these services,” said Jones. …

Read the complaint.

Lawsuit: Understaffing Leads to Insufficient Care for Diabetic Inmates at Private Prison

Source: Steven Hale, Nashville Scene, February 9, 2017

Since it opened a little more than a year ago, Tennessee’s newest and largest prison has been a mess. Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Hartsville, run by the private prison operator formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, was forced to stop accepting new inmates after just four months of operation. Staffing shortages had created a situation where, according to a memo obtained by the Associated Press, “the guards were not in control of the housing units, were not counting inmates correctly and were putting inmates in solitary confinement for no documented reason.” … A lawsuit filed last month in federal court on behalf of four inmates at the facility claims that understaffing there has led to insufficient care for some 60 inmates who have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. The plaintiffs are seeking to bring a class action, representing all such inmates who “who are, who have been, or who in the future may become, housed at Trousdale Turner correctional facility.” … In addition to corrections officers who are inadequately trained, the suit alleges that the medical staff at Trousdale — which has a capacity of 2552 inmates — consists of four nurses and two nurse practitioners, with no nutritionist and no medical doctor on staff following the resignation of a doctor who hasn’t been replaced. …

Woodmore bus crash: Can county turn back clock on bus privatization?

Source: Zack Peterson, Times Free Press, December 31, 2016

Green belongs to an old guard of local drivers who have largely been phased out of work since Hamilton County brought in its first private transportation company nearly 15 years ago. That 84-person group has dwindled to 49, he said. … They remember a prophetic report in 2001 warning school board members of the safety and accountability concerns that private companies bring. They remember the school board claiming it could save $1 million on a switch. And everyone will always remember Nov. 21, when a 24-year-old Durham School Services bus driver swerved into a utility pole and a tree with 37 Woodmore Elementary children onboard. … Now, as Green sits on his bus, he wonders whether the county could abandon Durham and return to a more robust system of local contractors that he believes is safer. … To understand the transportation arrangement, you have to go back to 1997, when Jesse Register came to oversee the merger of Chattanooga and Hamilton County schools as superintendent. For years, the separate county and city systems had developed different transportation arrangements. While the city had purchased a bus fleet and hired its own drivers over the years, the county had signed contracts with 84 independent owners like Green. After spending the first few years on magnet school programs and rezoning, Register turned his eye to transportation in 2001 and reached a difficult conclusion: It was too expensive to let both systems continue operating side by side. … Since there had been no tax increase and the district depended on funding from the County Commission, Register said he and other school board members moved to convert to one private transportation firm. After putting out feelers, three bids came in from Durham School Services, First Student and Laidlaw. The school board wanted to keep local contractors in the picture, Register said, in effect creating one private company in addition to the 84 drivers who already existed. … Over time, as local contractors have retired or grown too old, their routes have kicked over to the private company in place. The county struck a four-year deal with First Student in 2002, which ended four years later when school board members said they wanted a stronger contract to make the next private busing company more accountable to them, archives show. Durham won the next contract in 2007. Local contractors pushed back on the changes, and during the 2001 bidding process they took their concerns to attorney Tracy Wooden, who recounted their concerns about losing their livelihood under a privatized system in a 30-page report. …

… There’s talk of this contract because community members and some officials have expressed concerns about communication and accountability in light of the Woodmore crash. CEO David Duke told the Times Free Press earlier this month Durham only received two complaints against 24-year-old Johnthony Walker over speeding before the crash. Afterward, Hamilton County Schools released more than 30 pages of complaints and correspondence about Walker, including handwritten letters from students and a parent citing the driver’s speeding and recklessness. But Durham, which provides the majority of the county’s 250 buses and drivers, didn’t receive several of them, Duke said. …

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Exclusive: Tennessee State Senator Calls for Hearings on School Bus Privatization
Source: Mike Elk, Pay Day Report, November 29, 2016

In the wake of a tragic school bus accident in Chattanooga that left 6 children dead, many are seeking for ways to reform the current system that allows school districts to outsource busing to privatized companies. An investigative report by Payday Report first revealed that Durham School Services had a long history of worker intimidation, safety violations, and low wages, which some say make it difficult to attract qualified drivers. Now, following Payday’s reporting, State Senator Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville), the Chairman of Senate Democratic Caucus, is calling for the State Senate to convene hearings on the danger of outsourcing school bus services. … Yarbo’s call comes as Republican Governor Bill Haslam has also called for examining the safety risks of outsourcing school bus services to private companies. … Its unclear if Haslam intends to push legislation to address school bus privatization. However, Haslam is increasingly facing calls to pay school bus drivers better and ensure that contractors hold contractors accountable for safety violations. According to federal safety data, Durham School Services has been involved in 346 crashes in the past two years. These accidents have resulted in 142 injuries and 3 fatalities. During that same time period, the company was cited 53 times for “unsafe driving conditions”.  According to data compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “93% of motor carriers in the same safety event group have better on-road performance” than Durham. …

Tennessee Governor Says Outsourcing Buses Needs To Be Reassessed After Chattanooga Crash
Source: Chas Sisk, Nashville Public Radio, November 28, 2016

After last week’s school bus crash in Chattanooga, Governor Bill Haslam says Tennessee’s leaders need to reassess how to use private companies to operate buses. Emails show administrators were warned about the driver of the bus months ago. The accident has claimed six lives, and Haslam says it appears to be a sign of deeper problems. … One big question is why 24-year-old Johnthony Walker was driving a school bus. Parents, teachers, even the kids themselves had complained he was dangerous behind the wheel. Walker was said to be unrepentant when criticized about his driving, but because he was employed by a private bus contractor, administrators say their options for dealing with him were limited. Haslam seems to be saying districts should get more power to discipline drivers. He stops short of saying outsourcing is a bad idea in all circumstances.

CCA jailer charged with drag racing, having gun while drunk

Source: Michelle Willard, Daily News Journal, October 26, 2016

A correctional officer with Corrections Corporation of America was arrested and charged by police early Wednesday morning with possessing a firearm while under the influence, according to an arrest report from the Murfreesboro Police Department. Francisco Dominguez III, 28, of Kings Ridge Drive in Murfreesboro was charged after Sgt. Allen Cox reported he stopped two drivers for drag racing on Memorial Boulevard. …

County leaders consider pros and cons of ambulance service switch

Source: Tiffany Neely, WBRC, October 13, 2016

Shelby County discussed some possible changes to its ambulance system at a public works committee meeting on Thursday. Plans were laid out for a future ambulance system run by the Shelby County Fire Department. The committee will soon decide whether to use that system or keep the current system, American Medical Response. … The debate comes after American Medical Response requested a few changes to their contract that could more than double costs for the county. That’s why the county is considering using fire department employees to man the ambulances as well. … Shelby County Fire Department proposed a plan with a total of almost $600,000 less than AMR, but they said there will be a 12 percent fire fee increase. Commissioners said they the proposal is looking like the winning option, but the decision is about more than cost—it’s about the safety of Shelby County citizens. … The final decision will come Monday. The switch could come as soon as January 2017, however, it would mean a $3 tax increase per month for county residents. …

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Ambulance company AMR tells Shelby County it wants more money or will end contract
Source: Linda A. Moore and Donald Connolly, The Commercial Appeal, August 15, 2016

Ambulance provider American Medical Response has notified Shelby County government it is not making money under the current $1.7 million annual contract and given the county until Aug. 31 to pay more or end the agreement. Officials with Colorado-based AMR sent a letter to county fire Chief Alvin Benson last month detailing the proposed changes. It was not immediately clear how the proposed changes would affect fire fees or ambulance service for the areas that are part of the contract: unincorporated Shelby County and Arlington, Lakeland and Millington. … AMR has proposed three options: first, creating a hybridized service paying AMR an additional $2.2 million per year and requiring the Shelby County Fire Department to staff two ambulances and make calls; second, increasing the contract by $2.8 million per year; third, terminating the agreement after 120 days, allowing the county to bid the contract again. … He has also not ruled out the county providing ambulance service — buying the necessary equipment and hiring trained personnel. Adding to the dilemma, the demand comes more than a month after the county adopted the 2017 budget. …

Shelby County Considers Taking Over Ambulance Service
Source: Mike Matthews, Local Memphis, August 11, 2016

The company that runs ambulance service in much of Shelby County, American Medical Response (A-M-R) is telling folks they are losing money. They are asking for a big increase. So big, as Local 24 Watchdog Mike Matthews tells us, Shelby County officials are considering running the ambulance service themselves. … Here is one thing everybody is hearing. A-M-R officials say they are losing money running ambulance service in Shelby County. They want an increase in money; an increase that some say is about double of what they get now. … If the Shelby County officials were to give A-M-R the increase they want, they would probably have to raise fire fees. County residents pay fire fees for these types of services, and that increase would affect a lot of people who have A-M-R ambulance service. … Now, the future might mean Shelby County ends up running their service.  According to Kennedy, “Obviously we will be looking to see how much it costs for us to operate the service, as opposed to contracting it out. What kind of revenues we could get.” …