Privatization

TN auditors find troubles at CoreCivic prisons

A state comptroller’s audit has found several problems at private prisons operated for the state of Tennessee by CoreCivic, previously known as Corrections Corporation of America. Short staffing at Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, the newest and largest prison in the state, is a major focus, but there’s also criticism of operations at Whiteville Correctional Facility and Hardeman County Correctional Center.

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State to spend another $2M on Megasite, seeking consultant to help

The state of Tennessee is asking for $2 million next year to whip the Memphis Regional Megasite into shape, a process that will include hiring an outside consultant to assess why the decade-long project hasn’t yet landed a major manufacturer, reports WPLN. The state has already spent about $140 million on the Megasite.

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Haslam: No budget retaliation against UT for outsourcing rejection; higher ed seeks $102M new funding

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that his administration won’t retaliate against several University of Tennessee campuses that opted against his effort to privatize facilities management services at higher education institutions, reports the Associated Press.

During budget hearings, Haslam said he’s disappointed with how the process played out, but his administration won’t give less money to higher education because of choices that were left up to each campus.

… “There’s no recrimination from us, in my role as governor, anybody else’s role,” Haslam said. “We meant what we said. This was a tool to use if you found it to be to your benefit.”

The Health Science Center in Memphis is the only UT campus to opt in, but officials there only intend to have the company take over mechanical services that are already outsourced through a consortium with the University of Memphis and Southwest Tennessee Community College.

And The Tennessean has this quote from the governor on the reasons behind outsourcing rejection: “I understand they are subject to the politics of the governor’s office, legislature and campus workers’ union and all sorts of people, but great universities live in the midst of that and work past it.” 

More on the higher education budget hearing from the Times Free Press:

Beginning next fall, new graduates of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology or similar technical programs offering certificates and degrees from state community colleges will come with an eye-catching “warranty” for prospective employers.

If companies can demonstrate the graduates they hire aren’t up to snuff, “we’ll take them back and train them for free,” Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora Tydings told Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday.

Replied Haslam: “I love the idea. … That’s accountability at its finest.”

… Meanwhile, Tennessee Higher Education Commission Executive Director Mike Krause told the governor he is asking the THEC board to approve holding tuition and fee increases between 0 and 3 percent during the 2018-2019 academic year for the University of Tennessee System, the Board of Regents and six independently governed public universities.

Haslam has made it a priority in the last three years to boost state spending for higher education, reversing a decades-long trend in Tennessee and most states where public higher education has been forced to rely on large tuition and fee increases to make up higher operational costs.

This year, the UT system is seeking a total of $25.94 million in general government dollars for its campuses, which include the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The Board of Regents is asking for $23.84 million, while the locally governed six universities, including Tennessee Tech, are seeking $24.49 million.

The total higher ed request is $102.51 million, which includes various state-administered programs.

UT trustees grumble about ‘slaps in the face’ to Haslam outsourcing plans

Members of the University of Tennessee board of trustees have slammed a decision by UT Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport to not participate in facilities outsourcing even though Davenport argued the university wouldn’t save as much by privatization as promised, reports the News Sentinel.

In a presentation to the board (Friday), Davenport said UT Knoxville would only save $906,654 in the first year of outsourcing with private company Jones Lang LaSalle, compared to the $5.2 million the company estimated.

The university is already making its own improvements in efficiency; an outside company would not be able to handle the complexity of work associated with facilities management in research departments and the change could be harmful to the local economy, Davenport listed as additional reasons for her decision.

Trustees criticized the decision saying it lacked financial justification and would make it hard to go to the state to ask for money in the future.

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Reaction to UT outsourcing rejection: Haslam still supports concept as TSEA applauds

Press release statements following the University of Tennessee decision rejecting participation in outsourcing of facilities management services as proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam:

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UT system campuses reject Haslam’s outsourcing plan

University of Tennessee administrators announced Tuesday that they will not be participating in a proposed facilities outsourcing plan pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam, reports the News Sentinel.

The announcements by UT Chattanooga, UT Knoxville, UT Martin and the UT Health Science Center end more than two years of speculation as to whether campuses in the UT system would participate in the plan and raise questions about whether other public campuses across the state will follow suit.

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport first announced today a decision not to participate in the proposed facilities outsourcing plan in a statement posted on a UT website.

Excerpt:

The goal of the proposed outsourcing plan was to improve efficiencies and determine what is in the best interest of our campus. We thank the state and the UT System administration for challenging us to engage in extensive cost analyses and an evaluation of our practices, which have led to cost-saving operational changes in keeping with the outsourcing goals.

My decision to opt out was based on the extensive analyses of the financial considerations, the complexity of the work done on our research-intensive campus, and our commitment to the East Tennessee economy and our workforce. It is for these reasons that I have decided outsourcing facilities management is not the best option for our campus.

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Legislators bypass Jones Lang LaSalle, chose Siemens Corp., for services at Cordell Hull building

Legislative leaders have chosen Siemens Corp. to provide building management services at the just-renovated Cordell Hull State Office Building over Chicago-based real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle, reports the Times Free Press.

While JLL now manages operations at the existing Legislative Plaza and War Memorial Building, home since 1973 for lawmakers’ offices and committee hearing rooms. Those buildings will be vacated starting next week as legislators move to Cordell Hull.

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County, company settle probation lawsuit for $14.3M

Rutherford County and Providence Community Corrections have settled a class action lawsuit over private probation practices for $14.3 million, reports the Murfreesboro Post. The settlement will compensate nearly 30,000 Tennesseans for fees the company allegedly extorted from probationers.

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TV station gets bed bugs from prison (via mail)

Two inmates at South Central Correctional Center, a prison in Wayne County operated by CoreCivic under contract with the state of Tennessee, mailed WSMV TV a letter containing dead bed bugs said to be collected inside the facility.

From the Nashville station’s report:

News 4 took them to Belmont University professor and entomologist Dr. Steven Murphree.

“I can tell it’s a bed bug. I just haven’t seen one that is so large like that,” Murphree said.

The letters sent to our newsroom said the bed bug problem in the mental health building has been going on for a year. They say while employees do spray once in a while, the spray doesn’t work.

…The inmates say when a former staff member alerted CoreCivic to the issue, they said he was unqualified to identify a bed bug.

…Jonathan Burns, the spokesperson for CoreCivic sent News 4 this statement:

The health and safety of our employees and the individuals entrusted to our care is our top priority. CoreCivic received a report concerning the possible presence of bedbugs at South Central Correctional Center in August 2017. Facility leadership moved aggressively to address the issue.

Within 24 hours of receiving the initial report, the facility was professionally inspected and treated for bedbugs.

Haslam administration abandons state park privatization plans

Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau told a state legislative committee today that Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is abandoning plans to privatize operations at Tennessee state parks, reports the Times Free Press. He said TDEC’s focus will now be on using more than $100 million previously approved for state parks to begin addressing decades of ignored capital needs.

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