Tennessee lawmakers give Cordell Hull facilities management contract to Siemens, not JLL

FILE - In this July 2, 2013, file photo, a woman walks past the Cordell Hull Building in Nashville, Tenn. House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said on Wednesday, April 22, 2015, that lawmakers are mulling plans to move their offices from the Legislative Plaza to the building once set for demolition by Gov. Bill Haslam's administration. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, file)

NASHVILLE - Chicago-based real estate giant Jones Lang LaSalle will not handle facilities management services at Tennessee lawmakers' new home in the just-renovated Cordell Hull State Office Building, a top legislative official said.

While JLL now manages operations at the existing Legislative Plaza and War Memorial Building, home since 1973 for lawmakers' offices and committee hearing rooms, officials are using Siemens Corp. for Cordell Hull, where lawmakers and staffers will start relocating to beginning next week.

"They will provide services to manage it," said Connie Ridley, the General Assembly's director of Legislative Services, of Siemens."

Ridley said the move made sense given that Siemens, a subsidiary of Germany-based Siemens AG, was intimately involved in the extensive overhaul of Cordell Hull, installing a number of internal operating systems ranging from lighting to heating and air conditioning in the historic building.

Noting that the new systems are under warranty, the plan calls for Siemens to provide services for two years with officials planning to follow through with an eventual full request for proposals bid process before the two-year initial period expires.

"[Siemens] will provide services to manage it, again, since we really feel we need to take some time to put [the request for proposals] out on the street," Ridley said.

Ridley also said in the interview that JLL was not among three companies asked to provide bids for custodial and maintenance services. She did not state why.

Tom Foster, JLL executive vice president and account director for its Tennessee government business, said in a statement the company "wishes the General Assembly well as they move into their facility and we are willing to provide help in the future if needed.

"We'll continue to focus on our facilities management contract where we have a track record of great service and financial savings, which includes a 97 percent satisfaction rate and savings of $40 million for Tennessee taxpayers to date," Foster said.

A number of lawmakers and staff at Legislative Plaza and War Memorial Building have been highly critical of JLL, which also manages 10 percent of state buildings.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and administration officials, however, remain big fans of JLL. Earlier this year, the company won a competitively bid statewide facilities management contract that includes Tennessee's public colleges and universities.

Haslam has gone on record saying that it is up to individual institutions to decide whether JLL can perform the work at less cost.

But during a legislative hearing on state outsourcing and contracting, Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullhaoma, complained that college and university presidents nonetheless "definitely feel the pressure to accept JLL and that's fairly universal."

Bowling then went on to complain of "having been one of the recipients" of JLL's services performance in Legislative Plaza, War Memorial and the actual House and Senate chambers in the state Capitol.

"It was not as clean as it should be," Bowling said. "The chamber in the Senate had not been dusted for two or three years."

Mike Perry, the state's Chief Procurement Officer, rushed to JLL's defense, saying the company has implemented an effective work-order system complete with a survey asking service recipients for feedback in areas ranging from timeliness to courtesy.

Perry said the online system has worked well in the executive branch because a number of officials have been trained to use JLL's "work view" system. He said so far as he knows, only two legislative officials are authorized to use the system.

But as Perry began touting the positive impact JLL has had on heating and air conditioning in the Tennessee Tower executive branch building, Bowling had enough.

"Let's don't talk about temperatures right now," the senator said on a day when a Legislative Plaza thermostat showed temperatures of 65 and 66 degrees. "I believe we can hang meat here."

When Haslam, a billionaire, first ran for governor in 2010, JLL was among dozens of investments in which he had more than $10,000 in holdings. Upon becoming governor, Haslam put most investments except for his stake in the family-owned Pilot Flying J chain of travel centers in a blind trust.

The governor has said he doesn't know whether he currently still owns JLL stock or not.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.