The Princeton Council moved forward Monday night with plans to switch the cleaning service provider for the municipality from Arc Mercer, an organization that provides employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities, to private vendor CNS Cleaning Co.
This switch means that the staff of four developmentally disabled people responsible for cleaning city government buildings will be replaced. The switch has angered some residents.
Although CNS Cleaning Co. submitted a lower bid than Arc Mercer did, the switch was made for reasons other than money. Council members said they had received complaints about the quality of service and decided the switch was necessary on that basis.
“I think we all feel sorry about the outcome of this, but I think from the standpoint of providing the kind of facility that creates the kind of impression we want to create with the residents of this town, we are doing what we have to do,” Councilman Bernie Miller said.
“Our staff tried for a number of years to make that situation work,” added Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller. “I’m sorry to say it was not the money, it was the quality of service.”
Steve Cook, ARC’s executive director, disputes those claims. While Cook concedes that the quality of service was not perfect, he contends that it was satisfactory. He cited multiple reports from the state indicating overall ratings above 85 out of 100 on its scale, which is considered the threshold for acceptable cleanliness.
“In the end, I can’t argue with economics, but I can debate whether or not the buildings were clean.” Cook said to the council. “They were not perfect, but they were clean to industry standard…On behalf of the workers, I think they did a great job.”
“It wasn’t a rosy situation, but people with special needs, they’re not perfect,” Cook said after the meeting. “You have to work with them and I felt like if we kept working at it, we could have made this work.”
According to Cook, the national unemployment rate for those with developmental disabilities is 84 percent. The cleaning jobs that are being replaced were not only a source of employment; they also paid more than minimum wage, a rarity in jobs that employ developmentally disabled people.
“Of course, the ARC is going to do everything it can to place them in another janitorial contract or find other employment for them,” Cook said. “But as I said, the unemployment rate is 84 percent. It’s hard to find jobs like this. When you find the jobs, the one thing you don’t want to have happen is have them disappear.”
CNS Cleaning Co. offered the four employees a chance to re-apply when they take over the contract. Princeton will spend $134,460 on an 18-month deal with CNS. The resolution authorizing the switch passed unanimously.
Other Council Business
- The ordinance allowing for upgrades to the Princeton Public Library’s camera system that was introduced at the last council meeting passed. Councilwoman Jo Butler still expressed her opposition, saying that the library has been “a vocal supporter of privacy” and that the new ordinance “would not be in keeping with that.” However, she said she would vote for the bill reluctantly in order to advance other council business.
- Another ordinance allowing the council to partially reimburse Community Options Inc. for the purchase of Real Property at 24 Dorann Ave passed unanimously. Community Options Inc. intends to turn the property into a group home for developmentally disabled people. It will remain a single-family home, but will be shared by four people. This grants the town affordable housing credits.
- At the start of the meeting, the council honored Arm In Arm, formerly the Crisis Ministry of Mercer County, for its work in the community. Arm In Arm provides food, housing and job training for those in need. It is estimated that Arm In Arm serves 11,000 Mercer County residents, roughly 10 percent of which are in Princeton.