State picks up the pieces after Juneau janitorial service contracts fall apart

State Office Building
The State of Alaska is seeking new janitorial services at the State Office Building less than a month after signing contracts with a new custodial services company for most of its Juneau office spaces. The company says it does not have the staff to handle the workload. So, the state is re-bidding the contracts. Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO.

The State of Alaska has re-bid three contracts for janitorial services in Juneau that are less than two weeks old.

REACH, Inc. previously had the contracts. The nonprofit offers on-the-job training to people with disabilities and has provided custodial services in Southeast Alaska for almost 30 years.

Last month, REACH lost some of its state contracts in a competitive bid process to JJG Cleaning Services, a Juneau company that now says it doesn’t have the staff to handle the workload.

It was first time in 20 years the State of Alaska had solicited bids for its Juneau janitorial services. Department of Administration Spokesman Andy Mills doesn’t know why it had been so long. But he says the Parnell administration decided to put ten contracts out to bid in April.

“The state is always looking for things that we can do to be more efficient or provide services to the public at a lower cost,” Mills says.

The winners were announced last month. The largest contract was for the 180,000 square foot State Office Building, which had been cleaned by REACH Custodial Services since 1992.

REACH started the janitorial program in the mid-1980s with just a handful of small offices in Juneau. By 2012, the nonprofit’s clients were cleaning more than a million square feet of office space in the Capital City and other Southeast communities.

Executive Director Millie Ryan says the program has two main goals.

“One is to train people to acquire skills so they can get jobs in the community,” Ryan says. “The other is for folks who may not be able to get jobs in the community, we employ them and give them an opportunity to work and earn a paycheck.”

Ryan says REACH clients – many of whom have developmental disabilities – also benefit from daily interaction with other janitors and employees in the offices they serve.

“All the things that we all look for,” she says. “The chance to contribute, be a part of a group of people, a team.”

REACH bid about $312,000 per year for the State Office Building contract – slightly less than what it was paid to perform the service the previous year. JJG Cleaning Services bid about $193,000, undercutting REACH by 38 percent. Nearly all of JJG’s bids came in significantly lower than other companies that bid on the janitorial contracts.

As an organization that hires and trains people with disabilities, REACH gets preferential treatment when it comes to state contracts. But it wasn’t enough to overcome JJG’s much lower bid.

“We put together the best bid that we could, but got outbid,” Ryan says.

JJG is a 10-year-old company owned by Lyndon and Gina Del Rosario. It has about 15 full and part time employees and nearly 20 janitorial contracts in Juneau and Ketchikan, but none the size of the State Office Building.

Lyndon Del Rosario declined to comment on tape for this story, but said Tuesday the company would ask the state to end the SOB contract. He referred further questions to his wife, who did not return several messages.

The state’s Mills says the company did, in fact, ask out of the contracts for the State Office Building, Dimond Courthouse, and the 3rd Floor of the state Capitol on Wednesday, less than two weeks after the agreements were signed.

“As I understand it, JJG is exercising their right to terminate three of the contracts because of workload and staff levels,” says Mills.

He says JJG will honor its contracts in five other state facilities.

The state would not allow KTOO to interview employees involved in the proposal review process. But Mills says its “speculative” to suggest they missed something in JJG’s proposals that would indicate the company didn’t have the resources to perform the work.

“Certainly we’re disappointed that JJG has requested the termination of three of the contracts that they were awarded,” says Mills. “And certainly we are planning to put in the next competitive bid language that will help address the vendors adequacy for the contracts that they apply for.”

Mills says JJG is currently providing custodial services in the SOB and other buildings where it has terminated contracts, and will continue to do so until the state can award new bids. He says re-bidding the contracts won’t result in any significant extra costs or loss of staff time for the state.

REACH’s Ryan says she was surprised JJG ended its contract so quickly, but thought it might happen at some point.

“Those are big buildings, and you need to have enough people on hand to be able to do the work,” Ryan says.

The state on Thursday issued new requests for proposals for janitorial services at the State Office Building, Dimond Courthouse and 3rd floor of the Capitol building. Ryan says REACH plans to submit bids for all three.

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