The University of Rhode Island has started the process of composing a new contract with an outside vendor for laundry services in the residence halls that will begin in the Fall of 2019.
The current contract for laundry services in residence halls is with Automatic Laundry and has been in place for the past 10 years. It is set to expire on June 30, 2019.
There have not been any issues with the current vendor, however, rebidding is done when a contract is about to expire to keep prices as low as possible for the University.
Frankie Minor, the director of Housing and Residential Life, said the University will put out a request for proposal (RFP) to potential bidders. The request for proposal will be made available through URI’s purchasing office and will outline what the University expects from a potential bidder.
“We basically say here’s what we’re looking for, here are some options of what we’re looking for and any vendor who wants to provide their services is free to respond,” Minor said.
Once a company submits a bid for the contract, the University will evaluate the proposal based on cost, the type of washer and dryers that would be used, the type of service the company will offer and several other aspects.
Regardless of whether the current vendor or a different vendor is awarded the new contract, the washer and dryer machines currently in the residence halls, will likely be replaced. After 10 years the machines typically reach the end of their usage range and need to be recycled.
“One of the reasons we do a long-term contract is because almost assuredly, whoever gets the contract is going to be putting in new machines,” Minor said. “That’s a huge initial capital outlay. They want to make sure that they’re going to get back a return on that investment, so that is why we tend to do longer-term contracts.”
Jeff Plouffe, the assistant director of Housing and Residential Life, said they are looking to find a company that is flexible in working with the University. Plouffe said if there are numerous machines that are broken, it is important that the company is still willing to come to campus to repair the broken machines even if it is not a scheduled maintenance day.
“That kind of service component is very important, and that is where the RFP is helpful,” Plouffe said. “It allows you to make statements about your expectations for things like service, and it would be presupposed that someone who responds to the RFP would be prepared to do that.”
Minor said the University is looking at several features that may be of interest for students regarding laundry services. One of these features is an app-based service. This would mean residents can see when their laundry will be done and how many machines are available. An app based service would also allow students to set the length of time the dryers run for.
Another feature being considered by URI is a set fee for laundry that is paid at the beginning of the school year. This feature, which is referred to as included laundry, would mean residents no longer have to use coins or Ram Card to pay for laundry.
Plouffe will oversee a group of students on campus that will help communicate what type of features students living in the residence halls want. The group will be made up of Resident Assistants, Resident Academic Mentors and representatives from Student Senate. Minor said state law limits how much student involvement is permitted but they will utilize students as much as they are allowed.
“The most important piece is getting that consumer feedback,” Plouffe said. “‘What would you use, what do you think about this, should we request it?’ Once you request it, that’s what you get, because that’s what they bid on.”
Minor also intends on reaching out to other universities and colleges to gauge what works well with their laundry services to see what features should be included in the new contract at URI.
“We’ll reach out to some of our colleagues at other institutions and see what their experiences have been with particular vendors or with certain features that have come along,” Minor said.
The University will look for a company with high-efficiency washers and dryers in order to keep utility usage as low as possible.
“If you have 20 washers and 20 dryers and they’re all going at the same time, that puts quite a draw on the electrical system in the building,” Plouffe said. “We have some concerns over what will the utility usage [be] and what will the electrical usage be.”
Minor said some institutions that have implemented included laundry have seen utility usage increase while others have not seen such increases. The University hopes to decide who the vendor will be by mid-spring.