BANGOR – After 25 years of helping young people develop job and life skills, a Bucksport company has been sent packing from the local Job Corps center by the U.S. Department of Labor.
By failing to get its contract renewed for running the federal Penobscot Job Corps Center, Training and Development Corp. finds itself cut off from tens of millions of dollars in potential revenue.
John Chavez, spokesman at the federal agency’s office in Boston, said Thursday that a New York firm was awarded a contract Sept. 1 to run the Bangor facility.
Career Systems Development Corp. of West Henrietta, N.Y., will take over operations of the Bangor center on Oct. 1, Chavez said.
“Yes, they did lose the contract,” Chavez said of TDC.
The Bangor center is one of more than 120 residential Job Corps centers nationwide that provide academic, vocational and life-skills training to teenagers and young adults.
Chavez said the contract for the Bangor facility was awarded through a competitive bid process. He declined to release further details about the change in contractors, however, saying additional information would be provided only through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Andrew Carpenter, the New York company’s incoming director for the Bangor center, said Thursday that his firm was awarded a baseline two-year, $17 million contract to run the facility. If the company meets performance criteria and gets a three-year extension, he said, it will receive $42.5 million total for the full five-year term of the contract.
Charles Tetro, president and CEO of TDC, said Thursday that he and other TDC staff were caught off guard when the contract went to the New York firm. He said federal officials had told him TDC was “doing splendid work” in running the Bangor facility.
“We’ve gotten no feedback other than glowing feedback,” Tetro said. “This came as a complete surprise to us.”
Career System’s winning contract is about $540,000 more expensive than what TDC had proposed to spend, according to Tetro. Between that and the added cost of the transition between the two companies, the new contract will cost the federal agency about $868,000 more than it would have cost to keep TDC, he said.
Tetro defended the work his company has done, saying it has been proactive in implementing changes favored by the U.S. Department of Labor. He said the center has been accredited for its academic programs and has arranged for high schools to award diplomas to former students that have transferred to the Job Corps facility.
The Bangor center, which TDC has run since its opening in 1980, also was the first such center in the country to take a community-oriented approach in providing life training to its students, Tetro said.
Renae Muscatell, TDC’s business and community liaison for Penobscot Job Corps Center, said Thursday that the center, which is on Union Street near Bangor International Airport, has 346 students and approximately 125 employees.
“We’re going to be applying for positions [with the new company],” she said of the people who work at the center.
Carpenter, who will move to Bangor next week from a Job Corps center he runs in Cassadaga, N.Y., said he already has visited the local facility twice and thinks its staff is “wonderful.” All who work at Penobscot Job Corps Center will have the chance to apply for their current jobs and for others for which they may be qualified, he said.
The New York company expects to add about 10 more professional positions to the Penobscot Job Corps Center staff, according to Carpenter.
“My sense is that we’ll employ almost everyone” who works there now, he said.
Tetro said TDC would help its employees pursue jobs with the center’s new operator.
“We will do everything in our power to help them get those jobs,” he said.
According to Carpenter, Career Systems Development Corp. was founded in 1964, the same year the Job Corps program was started. He said all of the company’s Job Corps centers – it runs 10 of them in eight states, according to the company’s official Web site – are ranked in the top third in performance for all 122 Job Corps centers nationwide.
Tetro said that, with the loss of the contract in Bangor, TDC will take particular care in preparing its bid to continue running the Loring Job Corps Center in Limestone. Bids for running that facility have to be submitted by Oct. 11, he said.
The Job Corps center at the former Air Force base employs 138 people and has 380 students, according to Tetro.
Two years after TDC was awarded a $9.95 million contract in 1996 to run the then new Limestone facility, it nearly lost that contract when the quality of the center’s operations declined, a federal official said at the time. Improvements over the last few months of that contract salvaged the arrangement, and TDC’s contract in Limestone was renewed in 1998.
TDC also has operated Job Corps centers in Marion, Va., and in North Grafton, Mass., but chose not to renew those contracts because it wanted to concentrate on the centers in Maine, according to Tetro.
“We were really feeling we were at the top of our game,” Tetro said about running the Bangor center. “[Losing the contract] is really harmful to Training and Development Corporation and to Maine, and it doesn’t make any sense.”