JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – In a letter to the state’s transportation authorities, Sen. Dan Hegeman expressed concern over a Request for Proposal by the Department of Transportation that he fears could end the state’s use of sheltered workshops to maintain rest areas.
In the letter, sent last month and addressed to MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna and the commissioners of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, Hegeman cited RFP #160630-RJ, which said that the contract for janitorial services of rest areas would be awarded through a competitive bidding process and that sheltered workshops would only get 10 percent preference.
“From our perspective, this is a marked shift that devalues MoDOT’s relationship with sheltered workshops,” Hegeman wrote.
Hegeman used the bulk of the letter to write about the history of supporting sheltered workshops and their use to maintain rest areas in the state.
“Over the years and through each prior maintenance or janitorial contract, MoDOT has affirmatively sought to utilize sheltered workshops, and the sheltered workshops have routinely adjusted to meet the needs and demands of MoDOT,” he wrote. “This beneficial relationship has been affirmed in prior RFP’s, such as RFP 6-091230, which specified that ‘cleaning attendants must be certified workshop employees.’”
Sheltered workshops allow those with developmental disabilities, including Down syndrome, to work for sub-minimum wage. There are fears that if MoDOT selects another contractor for rest area maintenance, these workshops could close entirely, precluding work options for many adults with disabilities.
Advocates for the disabled warn that the state could turn to contractors from out of state to fulfill these contracts.
“There is reason for concern they can only underbid sheltered workshops because the out-of-state contractors appear to use migrant workers to do the work sheltered workshops have been doing in partnership with the public for over 3 decades,” said former Rep. Casey Guernsey, who prioritized the sheltered workshop partnership with MoDOT while in office and serves on the Harrison County Sheltered Workshop board called Unified Services.
Hegeman’s letter was cosigned by a bipartisan group of senators, including Sens. Wayne Wallingford, Gary Romine, Jeanie Riddle, Mike Cunningham, Gina Walsh, Ryan Silvey, Dan Brown, Brian Munzlinger, Bob Onder, Kurt Schaefer, Bob Dixon, Ron Richard and Doug Libla.