Contractor for fleet considered

City division overseeing vehicles employs 255

May 17, 2002|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Baltimore officials are looking into hiring a private contractor to run a division that oversees the city's fleet of vehicles and employs about 255 people, a move that troubles City Council members concerned about saving jobs.

Public Works Director George L. Winfield disclosed the plan last night at a meeting of the council's Budget and Appropriations Committee. Winfield was there to discuss his department's proposed $336.7 million budget for fiscal 2003.

Under questioning from council members who said they had heard about the plan, Winfield confirmed that the city has asked private companies for proposals to run his department's fleet management division, which takes care of city-owned vehicles.

Winfield said there was no plan to privatize those jobs in fiscal 2003, which begins July 1. But he said it was a possibility eventually.

"There is an RFP to determine costs," Winfield said, referring to a request for proposal, which invites companies to bid on the service.

Winfield said the idea to consider outsourcing grew out of recommendations from the business community, which has encouraged the city to trim its work force and hire private contractors to perform some functions.

From what he has learned from contractors so far, Winfield said he thought it was unlikely that privatizing fleet services would save money. Often, he said, the companies are not interested in working with a city unless most of its vehicles are new.

"We don't believe at this point the private sector can come in" and perform the job for less than what it costs the city, Winfield said.

In the budget approved last year, 176 public works custodians and security guards saw their jobs shift to private contractors. The $2.1 billion spending plan before the council this year calls for 41 Department of Recreation and Parks custodial positions to be contracted out.

Even so, council members have complained about plans to eliminate the recreation and parks jobs. They have asked the O'Malley administration for assurances that the workers will be offered other city jobs.

Winfield noted that of the 176 employees who lost their jobs to private contractors in the current budget year, 56 percent landed city jobs with higher pay, 30 percent retired, 6 percent resigned, 2 percent found jobs through the Office of Employment Development and 4 percent were terminated. The remaining 2 percent are pursuing some sort of personnel action.

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