SOUTH HOLLAND | The Thornton Township High School District 205 School Board on Thursday approved contracts for new firms to handle custodial and security services at the district’s three high schools.
By votes of 4-3, the district hired American Heritage, of Harvey, to handle security at Thornton, Thornridge and Thornwood high schools, at an annual cost of just under $1.84 million, and FYI, of Chicago, to handle custodial services at a cost of $1.92 million.
School Board President Kenneth Williams, along with board members Toni Williams, who is his wife, Judith Gibbs and Darren Robinson, were the supporters of both changes. Board members Bernadette Lawrence, Lauren Green and Edward Crayton were the opponents and the trio tried unsuccessfully to defer action on both contracts until a future meeting,
Diamond Security, of Chicago Heights, and RJB Properties, of Orland Park, have handled security and custodial services, respectively, for several years, but Kenneth Williams said that in recent years both companies had worked without contracts on a month-to-month basis.
He said the uncertainty of costs makes it difficult for the district to budget. He pointed out specifically the custodial contract, saying it ended up costing District 205 up to $800,000 more than had been budgeted for the 2012-13 school year.
But the School Board’s approval caused controversy as about 75 custodial workers with RJB who were present expressed their opposition to the change.
They were particularly upset the contract for FYI was only the third-lowest of seven bids. Williams said “other factors” made the two lowest bids unqualified for the contract.
Angela Shumpert, the RJB vice president, said strict compliance with the district’s bid requirements for the prevailing wage drove her bid up to $900,000 more than the FYI bid.
“If they hadn’t done that, I could have matched that low bid,” Shumpert said. “I’d still have the contract.”
Also upset was Anita Richardson, owner of South Holland-based Dayspring, whose bid of $1.78 million was the low bid.
“We want to have a stake in South Holland,” she said, as her reasoning for wanting the contract. Her company’s primary business is cleaning 47 government buildings in Chicago.
Among the School Board members who opposed the change, Crayton said he had concerns about how the bid process was handled. He said computer glitches experienced by the district resulted in some officials not being notified in time for any contract to be awarded Thursday. State law requires a 10-day period between the bid opening and a contract being awarded, but Crayton and some other School Board members said they received only seven days notice.
Kenneth Williams was skeptical of such talk. “Irregardless of what you say, I received it on time,” he said.
Williams is the subject of a lawsuit by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez seeking to remove him from the School Board. Alvarez says his 28-year-old felony conviction in Indiana for aiding and abetting a forgery makes him ineligible to serve on an elected board.
Shumpert said she thinks Williams is “in a mad rush to award these contracts before he’s kicked right out of the district.”
A judge last month refused to immediately remove Williams from the board. Another court hearing is scheduled for July 24.
Williams, who declined to comment about his criminal record, said he sees the contract issue as one purely of financial responsibility.
“You cannot run a (school) district on a day-to-day or a month-to-month basis,” he said.