Bids Could Be Rejected

ST. MARYS — After a local school committee met Tuesday afternoon to discuss outsourcing its second and third-shift custodians, board members will be seeing the recommendation to refuse the bids and to look at the realignment of one of the district’s departments at their meeting tonight.

During the meeting, members of the St. Marys City Schools Buildings and Grounds Committee decided to recommend that the board refuse the bids that were taken at the end of June and to look at realigning the Buildings and Grounds Department to look for ways to make the department more efficient.

Superintendent Mary Riepenhoff noted the district would save approximately $75,000 by outsourcing. Board Member Ralph Wiley asked about cleaning supplies and if they would be included in that savings.

“We’re still going to need cleaning supplies for first shift,” Business Manager Kurt Kuffner said. “The only way we would have an accurate number would be if we measured after we did it for a year.”

Kuffner presented an idea to the committee members — as an alternative.

“This is a pretty big step for our district to go from our staff to outsourcing second and third shift,” he said. “There is a middle-of-the-road solution. The board could reject the bids and instruct (Buildings and Grounds Supervisor) Greg (Adams) and I to work together to realign the Buildings and Grounds Department in an effort to save money. We could do it for a year and see if we save money, but if it doesn’t save as much as we wanted, we could go through this again after a year.”

Board Member Rees McKee said he liked Kuffner’s idea.

“We could do it for a year and get a good feel to see if it works down that road,” he said. “Looking at a realignment would be a good first step, so we’re not jumping the gun.”

Wiley added the $75,000 was not as much of a savings as the board anticipated — the original estimate was a cost savings of approximately $145,000 a year — by going through with the outsourcing.

Wiley also noted he was concerned about the security with outsourcing — even though Kuffner did note both cleaning companies do background checks and had positive references.

“It’s not the same — because of what we have, our expectations are actually higher,” Wiley said. “There are things that our staff does that we don’t even know that they do — like when community members come in the building in the evenings. I think they do the same thing for visitors — we don’t hear about it unless someone happens to say something.”

McKee noted the custodians’ support of the schools.

“The vested interest they all have in it — it’s a new school, and they’ve all stepped up and done a little more,” he said.

Wiley asked Adams what he would want to help out the custodians because “sometimes you have to spend money to save money.” Adams said he would like some type of a lift to reach the high windows and lights in the new building.

“We’ve got a one-person lift, but when you go up 30 feet in a one-man lift, you don’t want to go up again,” Adams said.

Kuffner noted one of the items looked at in the realignment could also be outdoor maintenance, such as mowing, and noted Celina City Schools outsources all of its mowing.

“We’ve got a lot more grass to mow than we did two years ago,” Kuffner said.

He also noted the Living Hope Assembly of God youth group who recently worked at the high school-middle school and helped with mulching.

“There’s other ways to get stuff done,” Kuffner said. “We have to buy the material, but the labor would be virtually costless.”

McKee said that would be something that would be discussed in the realignment.

“My recommendation would be to have Kurt and Greg look at a realignment, and within that realignment look at possible cost savings for outsourcing. If we outsourced mowing, that would free up our people.”

The committee members approved a recommendation to reject all the bids and recommended to instruct Adams and Kuffner to look at a realignment.

“I think we’re being prudent in looking at this first,” McKee said. “We haven’t done a realignment for how long.”

The recommendation will be looked at during today’s St. Marys Board of Education meeting, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium at St. Marys Memorial High School-St. Marys Middle School.