School board reviewing contracts

Seymour Community Schools trustees are divided on whether the board should approve a comprehensive list of maintenance contracts the corporation has with various businesses without taking a closer look at each one first.

The board did not approve the list of 23 annual maintenance contracts presented by Dave Stark, director of facilities and grounds, at the Nov. 10 board meeting at Cortland Elementary School.

Trustees Jeff Joray and John Kelley voiced concerns that some work was not going out to bid and the corporation might be paying too much.

Stark said that’s not the case, as he seeks quotes for needed services when time allows and goes with the best one.

“I try to be competitive and look at pricing from different contractors,” he said. “I don’t want you to be under the impression that we’ve never gone out for bids.”

If the amount of the contract is more than $5,000, he brings it before the board for approval per the board’s policy, he said. Anything more than $25,000 requires at least three bids.

Joray said he feels all of the contracts should be bid out because they are being paid for with taxpayers’ money.

“The idea of getting bids is for the public,” he said. “The purpose of a bid is to make sure that somebody, whether now or down the road, doesn’t take advantage of you.”

Stark said if he were to go out and collect at least three bids for every contract, regardless of the amount, and then wait for board approval, nothing would get done.

“I don’t have time to do that,” he said.

Business manager Steve Nauman said some of the contracts are “just the cost of doing business.” The corporation would require another full-time position if the board wanted someone to collect bids for each service, he said.

“The things that I deem day-to-day operational things, maintenance supplies, the nuts and bolts of keeping things running, it would be cumbersome to bring those to the board every time,” Nauman said. “And by the time we would get them to you and get it approved, we would have have been without a cooler in the kitchen for two months.”

The amount of the contract can change from year to year, Stark said, depending on how much work is needed from each contractor. Some agreements are in place for more than one year in order to secure a lower price.

Nauman said the contracts are closely monitored along with each school building’s maintenance budget.

Stark said he wasn’t opposed to seeking quotes for whatever the board wanted.

Other trustees, including President Art Juergens and Nancy Franke, said they believe Stark, Superintendent Rob Hooker and other administrators do a good job of maintenance without additional oversight on such issues.

“I think we’re creating a nightmare,” Juergens said. “I realize it’s taxpayers’ money, but I think we’ve been very good about using the taxpayers’ money. I don’t think we’re trying to fool anybody. When something goes wrong, these people come and fix it, and I think you’ve got to look at that. If these people were ripping us off, it would be a different story.”

The list presented at the meeting included contracts for bleacher, elevator, lift and playground inspections, trash disposal, chiller, boiler and generator maintenance, water softener salt, natural gas, security and alarm systems repair and monitoring, HVAC system repairs, fire protection, kitchen duct cleaning, refrigeration and ice machine repair, water testing, pest control, mowing, snow removal, landscaping and lawn care.

Hooker said one option the board could consider that may lower contract costs is hiring a fourth corporation maintenance position with refrigeration and electrical experience, allowing such work to be done in-house.

He said he would research what that option would cost versus using an outside vendor for those services.

Franke said she is concerned that by getting bids for each and every contract, the corporation won’t use as many local businesses.

Although using local vendors and businesses can be more expensive, response time is often quicker and can save the corporation more money in the long run, Nauman said.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.