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MBTA board votes to privatize warehousing department

Michael Herman pulled items from the shelves at the MBTA Central Warehouse in Everett. The T oversight board voted Monday to privatize the agency’s warehousing department. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe/File/Globe Freelance

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s oversight board voted Monday to privatize the agency’s warehousing department, hiring Virginia-based Mancon, Inc. for up to 9 years with a $28.4 million contract.

MBTA officials had previously slammed the warehousing department, which orders, stores, and moves mechanical parts for the T’s vehicles, for being “completely broken.” The agency promised that privatizing the department would improve efficiency.

“The T is in the business of moving people, not parts,” said Brian Shortsleeve, the interim general manager of the MBTA.

MBTA officials said the move to contract with Mancon, one of three finalists in the process, would save the agency about $5 million each year. MBTA officials previously said the warehousing department cost $4 million a year, but officials now say the operation costs about $8 million, including extra pension costs.

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Mancon beat out two other companies, Banneker and Neovia, even though its contract price was higher than Banneker’s.

Ernest Miller, a consultant hired to oversee the privatization process, said the MBTA chose the Virginia-based company because of its experience with the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Rick Clarke, the president of Mancon, said the contract would be the company’s first big contract within the Boston market.

The five-year contract has a pair of two-year extensions, and officials say the new service will save time that has been spent searching for parts in a disorganized warehouse.

Close to 40 workers used to work in the warehousing department, but many employees took buyouts offered as the MBTA signaled that privatization would hit the department.

Now, only about 20 employees work there, and they are guaranteed jobs in the warehouse for 20 months, according to an agreement with the Boston Carmen’s Union, which represents the workers.

After that, those employees will be shifted to other jobs in the agency.

James O’Brien, the president of the Boston Carmen’s Union, said he does not anticipate any layoffs with the privatization move. But he also said he doesn’t believe that the move to a private company will signal more efficiencies or cost savings.

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“They’re going to come back and look for more money,” he said.


Nicole Dungca can be reached at nicole.dungca@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.