The state Transportation Department’s renewed an agreement with “sheltered workshops”. Those organizations will continue providing janitorial services at state rest stops and welcome centers.
Sheltered workshops are non-profit businesses which employ people with disabilities who otherwise might not be able to find work.
Republican state Senator Dan Hegeman of Andrew County is a strong proponent of MoDOT’s ongoing relationship the workshops. “The Employees are eager and very friendly. They’re very accommodating to the travelers that come through, very welcoming. They maintain (the facilities) in an immaculate manner in my perception. I think they do a fantastic job.”
Hegeman says the workshops have supplied janitorial services at state rest areas for almost 30 years, although in recent times MoDOT has outsourced management of the facilities to third parties.
The new three year agreement for services goes into effect October 1st at a cost of slightly more than $19 million – $6.4 million per year with two options to renew for two years each without having to go through an evaluation process.
Hegeman contends sheltered workshops provide special opportunities for intellectually challenged people. “Many of them get great satisfaction out of it” said Hegeman. “Many of the families and their communities support these sheltered workshops as well. And that’s why it’s so important to have this continued relationship with the Missouri Department of Transportation in maintaining these travel centers.”
MoDOT works with two outside companies who employ the disabled workers to supply janitorial services. Infrastructure Corporation of America handles the western half of the state, while DeAngelo Brothers LLC is charged with maintaining facilities in the eastern portion of Missouri.
The workers are dispatched to take care of eight rest area locations as well as seven welcome centers and eleven truck parking facilities that have bathrooms. (The welcome centers are also staffed with personnel from the state Division of Tourism.)
Rest areas and welcome centers are spaced out in distanced of 50-to-75 miles apart on five major Interstate Highways in Missouri – I-70, I-44, I-55, I-29 and I-35.
Missouri has 89 non-profit sheltered workshops statewide which employ 7,500 people. Senator Hegeman thinks the disabled workers are well served by these operations. “It’s a great place for these people to go and congregate, and join together in doing something productive for their community. It also provides great meaning to the clients as they work toward a satisfying goal of producing a product.”
Sheltered workshops aren’t without critics. Opponents say the disabled workers are underpaid and are better served when employed in traditional workplaces. A number of states have phased them out.