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The Cleaning Industry's Take on Professional Bldg. Maintenance Corp. v. School Board, by Dan Wagner.
At a time when the connection between cleaning and health is becoming better understood and there is a greater appreciation for the "total cost of cleaning" as it relates to protecting facility assets, environmental sustainability, and the health and safety of building occupants, the Virginia Supreme Court's decision and the underlying procurement law are extremely troublesome. This is especially true given that the court's majority opinion did not reference an amendment to the law that specifically allows for the use of "best value" methodology, as well as the challenge in determining exactly what "responsive and responsible" means.
In this case, the board's goal was to identify and select a cleaning service provider that they were confident could deliver a healthy and productive learning environment, and the board implemented a system that they believed could help them achieve this goal. However, the court ruled that once bidders were deemed "responsive and responsible," no other factors are allowed to come into play; the lowest bidder must be selected.
Not allowing a facility to engage in a reasonable selection process based on factors beyond mere "responsibility" and price is a dangerous precedent. Cleaning, after all, is a true investment in health, safety, and the indoor environment, and is a key piece to the environmental sustainability puzzle. To treat cleaning as less--a simple commodity--increases risk to all of these important investments.
(Note: ISSA does not pass judgment on the specific process used by the Spotsylvania County School Board in this case and whether the board acted in an "arbitrary and capricious manner," as the plaintiff organization alleged.)
Dan Wagner is director of Facility Service Programs, ISSA.