Bell wants Tennessee comptroller to delay OK on Haslam's facilities management outsourcing contract

Tennessee state Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, addresses the Pachyderm Club of Hamilton County meeting on Monday, August 4, 2014, in Chattanooga.

NASHVILLE - A Tennessee senator wants Comptroller Justin Wilson to hold off on approving the Haslam administration's massive facilities management outsourcing contract with Jones Lang LaSalle until Wilson assures him that architectural, engineering and contracting services involving buildings won't be included.

Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell, R-Riceville, sent the letter on Wednesday to Wilson, who on Monday began reviewing the proposed JLL contract.

"I would appreciate a response to this inquiry prior to the execution of the contract with Jones Lang LaSalle," Bell says in the letter.

If Wilson approve the contract, it could hand over to the real estate giant the building management, janitorial and grounds keeping services for all of Tennessee higher education as well as several additional state departments to the Chicago-based real estate management firm which already manages a number of state buildings.

Concerns by Tennessee architects and engineers over building design services recently forced Gov. Bill Haslam's administration to revise a Request for Proposal for private firms to take over facilities management at Fall Creek Falls State Park.

Under pressure from Bell and other lawmakers, Wilson and other members of the State Building Commission, which has majority legislative control through appointees, the SBC largely maintained its decades-long oversight of building and design of state buildings.

"There are still still serious concerns and questions about this contract," Bell told Wilson in the letter regarding the JLL contract. "I continue to have questions about the contract, specifically regarding the procurement of goods and services."

Bell noted that "as you are aware, architects, engineers and contractors have been concerned that the scope of the Facilities Management contract may include design and construction."

In an interview today, Bell said he was told that design and construction services are not a part of the contract.

"But I've been told there's a concern that it does," said Bell, who noted he wants Wilson, who is elected by the General Assembly, to weigh in.