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Panther Valley School Board replaces janitors with NJ company

Published June 13. 2014 01:35PM

Panther Valley School Board agreed Thursday night to hire an outside firm to perform the district's janitorial services, putting in limbo the jobs of 16 union employees.

Without comment, the action was taken on a 5-3 vote, with board member Anthony DeMarco abstaining because he said he has a conflict of interest.

Eastern Janitorial Services of Kenilworth, New Jersey, was hired at a base cost of $470,820 for the 2014-15 school year.

The move is expected to save the district approximately $212,000.

In favor of hiring Eastern Janitorial Services were board members Roy Angst, Bill Hunsicker, Irene Genther, Michelle Markovich and board President Jeff Markovich.

John Williams, the board vice president, Brian Dolena and Dan Heaney voted no.

Initially, there was a motion made to table this action, but this died by a 5-3 vote, with DeMarco abstaining.

Darrin Fry, business agent for Teamsters union Local 773, which represents the custodial workers, said custodians are making an average of $15 per hour at the school.

He said the board had asked the workers to take a $5 per hour pay cut, which would have been one-third of the average salary.

Fry said through negotiations, a proposal was made that would have saved the district $115,000 the first year and $338,000 over a three-year period.

He told the school board, regarding an outside firm doing the work, "God knows where they're going to get the people to work for minimum wage."

Joe Kosalko of Summit Hill appealed to the board to retain the district's custodians, stating, "You don't have administrative cuts."

Renee DeMelfi, the parent of a child who attends classes in the school district, told the board, "I can't understand how the board can consider outsourcing jobs," she said.

She expressed concern about checking clearances for the workers the new firm brings into the district.

"Where are these people going to come from?" she asked. "Do these people really care?"

DeMelfi said the people losing their jobs could lose their homes, which would add to the district's loss of tax revenue.

"To me, this is an emotional thing," she said. "I hate to see people losing their job."

She said the present custodial staff consists of "local citizens, and they care about the community and about the children."

Eastern Janitorial Services was founded in 1954, and "has evolved into one of America's largest privately held professional cleaning companies," according to its website.

"Every day, our 1,800-plus employees are responsible for cleaning 70 million square feet of space for a distinguished roster of 750 clients," the website says.

The firm has clients from Connecticut to Florida.

It is not known if the new company will hire the present Panther Valley employees.

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