Contract for security at Cook Co. Juvenile Center extended — again

By Kevin Beese Staff reporter

A contract for security workers at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center has been extended 15 times. JTDC officials say contract workers are needed as nearly 40 percent of the facility’s staff is on family or medical leave. (Kevin Beese/Chronicle Media)

A Cook County security contract that has been extended 15 times has netted a Florida company more than $24 million.

County Board commissioners begrudgingly approved the 15th contract amendment last week, with the stipulation that the contract for security at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center be bid out to a targeted market within six months, squeezing out the current contract holder.

G4S, based in Jupiter, Fla., has been the sole provider of contract security services at the Juvenile Center since 2008.

Adding to commissioners’ frustration is the fact that G4S does not qualify as a minority and women business enterprise.

“Twenty-four million dollars and no MWBE participation? I think we can do better,” said Commissioner Stanley Moore.

Nearly 40 percent of G4S’ $24.1 million from the county thus far came in just two extensions — $5 million for service from December 2010 through November 2011 and $4.5 million for service from September 2009 through June 2010.

The recently approved $200,000 is to help get the JTDC through the holiday season and spring, according to Steve Smith, director of business for the facility.

Commissioner Jeff Tobolski said that most of the extensions date back to 2012 and earlier.

“We keep seeing the same excuse,” Tobolski said.

The contract was already extended twice in the past year — $1.1 million to provide contract staff from Dec. 1, 2016 through May 31 and $414,000 to provide staff from June 1 through Nov. 30.

Tobolski expressed frustration that the JTDC was back before the County Board for an extension a third time in just over a year, knowing that a new permanent vendor needs to be sought.

“What the hell have you been doing the past year?” Tobolski snapped at Smith. “… I am getting tired of seeing this.”

The original G4S contract was for $1.8 million for staffing services from May through November 2008. Smith said the contract employees are vital to ensuring individuals within the youth correctional facility remain safe.

“They mirror what the county staff does,” Smith said of the contract workers. “They fill in when a critical need arises.”

Smith said the G4S staffers are regularly needed because nearly 40 percent of the JTDC staff is on family and medical leave — 18 percent on continual leave and 21 percent on intermittent leave.

“The security service provider helps fill the void to make sure young people are safe and secure,” Smith said.

He noted that the JTDC is losing up to 100 positions in the current budget and the six-month contract will allow four or five G4S employees to fill in when absenteeism hits the detention facility.

“We are facing a staffing shortage,” Smith said.

Shannon Andrews, the county’s chief procurement officer, said much of the reliance on G4S came from the previous administration of the JTDC. She said current Superintendent Leonard Dixon was asked to work with G4S while a new permanent vendor was found.

The county sent out requests for proposals and had a vendor selected and contract in place, but there was a lack of compliance with all the contract criteria, Andrews said, noting the need for the most recent G4S contract extension.

Andrews said based on the Cook County Procurement Code, the JTDC security contract can be rebid in a “target market solicitation,” which would allow only certified MWBE firms within Cook County to submit proposals, knocking G4S out of the picture.

Commissioner John Daley said that he understands fellow commissioners’ concerns about the extensions on the G4S contract, but said the current extension was something that needed to be passed.

“If something were to occur, we don’t have adequate staffing,” Daley said. “They need security there.”

Commissioner Moore said it seems like the county is putting a Band-Aid on the problem with the $200,000 contract extension, but agreed with Daley that the juvenile facility has to have adequate security.


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