Commission to privatize city hall custodial services

MARQUETTE – The city of Marquette will privatize a city hall custodial position beginning next month.

The Marquette City Commission voted 5-1 Monday to offer a three-year contract for cleaning services at city hall to Marquette’s Final Touch Services Inc.

The position – that of full-time custodian in city hall – was previously filled by a union worker who retired recently. According to Scott Cambensy, superintendent of the city’s public works department, the collective bargaining agreement for Marquette’s city hall bargaining unit stipulates the city can privatize the position if it is able to hire a private company at a cheaper rate.

“One of the real things behind this was just trying to long-term, save the tax dollars coming in – save money for the city of Marquette,” Cambensy told the commission. “We’re doing this at a time when the previous custodian had retired.

“You are not laying anybody off to go through this process. Certainly, if it’s a process that does not work out, the option is always there to go back to a full-time employee.”

City officials estimate the shift will save $20,000 over the course of the three-year contract.

Cambensy said the city also has a full-time unionized custodian working at the city service center. That position was unaffected by the move.

City Commissioner Sara Cambensy voiced opposition to the privatization, saying she was worried a contract employee would not feel as invested in city work. In addition, she said a contract employee could bring hidden costs, including oversight by city supervisors.

“To me, $20,000 over three years is not a lot when you’re investing in people that take care of a facility that is the face of the city. This is where people come to pay their bills and do their business,” she said. “I would rather pay our union work a little more and have them invested, do a better job and relieve staff of having to oversee contracted companies than to sit here and worry about saving a little bit here and there. I will not support this.”

Commissioner Don Ryan and Mayor Johnny DePetro said they shared Commissioner Cambensy’s concerns, but were willing to test the new system, as it included no layoffs.

“I’m not really comfortable with this, but as long as I know no city employee is going to get laid off,” DePetro said.

The commission approved city staff enter into a three-year contract for an annual amount not to exceed $54,900. Cambensy said that, with cause, the city has the ability to cancel the contract with 10 days notice. Without cause, the contract can be canceled with six months notice.

Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.