LITTLE ROCK - Two Arkansas companies that operate seven Youth Services Division facilities submitted protests Friday to the state’s intention to award a contract to run the facilities to an out-of-state company that has said it will charge the state more than the current operators charge.
Every seven years, the state is required to seek proposals from organizations interested in operating the juvenile treatment and juvenile offender facilities. Department of Human Services spokeswoman Amy Webb said it has been eight years since bids were taken because of a previous one-year extension.
A DHS evaluation committee reviewed the proposals and scored them based on how well they met a list of technical criteria. The state Department of Finance and Administration’s Office of State Procurement then took the scores and the bid amounts into consideration before announcing earlier this month it intended to award a contract to Youth Opportunity Investments of Carmel, Ind., to operate seven facilities.
DF&A intends for the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center near Alexander to continue to be operated by Rite of Passage of Minden, Nev.
Youth Opportunities Investments has proposed charging the state $232 per bed per day, up from the $147 the state pays now per day for each of the 249 beds in the facilities.
Webb said efficiency measures that DHS is developing should provide enough savings to offset the increased per-bed rate.
DF&A spokesman Jake Bleed said the agency received protests Friday from South Arkansas Youth Services of Magnolia and Consolidated Youth Services of Jonesboro, both of which submitted proposals that were rejected in favor of the Indiana company.
South Arkansas Youth Services operates two facilities in Mansfield, one for boys and one for girls, and one facility each in Dermott and Lewisville. State Rep. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, acting as attorney for the company, wrote in the company’s protest letter that:
• Youth Opportunities Investments’ bid should have been rejected because the company is not authorized to do business in Arkansas.
• DHS and/or DF&A violated state law by failing to retain the evaluation committee’s score sheets.
• The state Division of Youth Services conducted post-bid discussions with Youth Opportunities Investments but did not offer the same opportunity to any other bidders.
• The Division of Youth Services did not act in good faith in dealing with bidders.
Consolidated Youth Services operates facilities in Colt and Harrisburg. Attorney Debbie Thetford Nye wrote in the company’s protest letter that Youth Opportunities Investments’ proposal was deficient; that the bidding and selection process was “fraught with procedural irregularities and unfairness”; and that Consolidated’s bid was superior to the Indiana company’s.
DRS Services of Pine Bluff, which does not currently operate a facility, also submitted a bid that was rejected. The company did not return a phone message Friday.
Bidders have 14 days to submit a protest after learning of an alleged flaw in the process. Friday was 14 days after the intent to award the contract to Youth Opportunities Investments was announced.
Sen. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, whose district includes the Mansfield facilities, said Friday he has “a great deal of concern” about the plan to switch to an out-of-state provider at greater cost to the state.
The current operators “have not received a dime’s increase in three years,” he said.
“I’ve got a lot of questions,” Rice said.
Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, chairman of the Senate Children and Youth Committee, also said she has questions.
“A lot of the intake providers have been asking for more money for years and we haven’t given it to them. It seems quite odd to have an out-of-state contract and offer them more money,” she said.