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County renegotiates Aramark contract at reduced costs

by: MARK MILLER - Hand soap and paper towel dispensers in a restroom at the Columbia County Courthouse bear the Aramark Uniform Services logo. Columbia County officials say they will own the equipment at the end of a one-year contract extension with Aramark, which stocks supplies in county buildings.The Columbia County Board of Commissioners approved a contract extension with Aramark Uniform Services, which provides supplies and services in county buildings, that sharply reduces the amount the county pays the Philadelphia-based company per week on Wednesday, April 16.

The weekly amount paid under the old program was about $2,612. The new program shaves that cost down to about $1,515 — a reduction of some $1,097 per week. According to a copy of the contract amendment, Aramark proposed reduced pricing in exchange for the county’s agreement to extend the contract for one more year.

The county leases paper towel, sanitizer and soap dispensers — among other products — from Aramark, which also refills the dispensers.

But with a favorable contract extension in place until June 2015, Columbia County can move forward on ending its dependence on rented Aramark equipment, county officials said.

“We’ve made modifications to the weekly rental of the equipment that dispenses our products,” said Todd Cunningham, Columbia County’s building services manager. “We will then, rather than rent, we will own them at the end of the contract, and this is the final year of that contract.”

Todd Dugdale, director of Columbia County Land Development Services, explained, “One of the things we found is that we were paying rent over a long period of time for those. We probably paid for them several times over. So we will own those dispensers at the end of this one-year period.”

Dugdale also suggested the county may move away from its current system of having Aramark send people to fill its dispensers in county buildings. One option, he said, would be to purchase stockpiles of the products needed to fill the dispensers and task the existing maintenance staff with replenishing depleted dispensers.

For paper products, Dugdale said, Columbia County could even attempt to buy locally. He mentioned the Georgia Pacific Corp. paper mill in Wauna, about 12 miles west of Clatskanie, as a prospective supplier.

County Commissioner Henry Heimuller said the county has an even more local option.

“We actually have a paper producer right here in St. Helens, Oregon, that buys tissue product from Cascade [Tissue Group] and ... turns it into those same products right here, no more than a mile from the [Columbia County] Courthouse, in Oregon Paper,” said Heimuller, referring to Oregon Paper Co. The small paper company is located at 200 Port Ave. in St. Helens, about two miles from the courthouse.

Cunningham said he has already reached out to Oregon Paper.

Attempts to contact Oregon Paper for comment were unsuccessful.

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