The Clinton City Board of Education is asking schools officials to take a second look at how money is spent on groundskeeping.
During a recent meeting, board members discussed contracts with Turning Leaves Inc. of Clinton for maintenance at schools.
Board member E.R. Mason questioned if it was cheaper to have a staff member handle the landscaping versus an outside agency. He said paying $63,000 was a lot of money for six campuses.
“I’m concerned,” Mason said. “Are we getting better results by contracting it out? Are we spending more money than we should? We’re trying to save money, but I don’t see the advantage here, unless we have someone that can keep up with it from day to day.”
Assistant Superintendent Clyde Locklear said there are advantages to having an outside group handling the landscaping, such as not dealing with benefits for employees and the cost to maintain equipment.
“This was our first year doing it,” Locklear said. “Up to that point, we had done it in house with school employees.”
Prior to the contract, there were three individuals who provided grounds maintenance. Locklear said about $100,000 was spent each year to do so.
“Those individuals provided some other services that are not part of the maintenance contract that we have now,” Locklear said about tasks such as picking up trash at outside facilities. “Those are some services that we still provide. There are some advantages both ways with contracting and having staff in-house.”
Board member Carol Worley said she was not pleased with the services from just visiting the campuses and observing the grass.
“I don’t remember noticing it as much in the past when we had our own guys doing it,” Worley said.
She said the district employees took ownership in the work.
“It was personal to them,” she said. “I don’t know how often these people are cutting, but I just know the campuses don’t look as good as they used to in my opinion.”
Worley also mentioned a local athletic team not being able to practice at the middle school because the grass was too high.
She said $100,000 was high, but the district employees did more than just cut grass. Worley also believes that the contract and process needs to be modified.
“We need to see some improvement on the grounds on all campuses,” Worley said.
Locklear said expectations were placed in the contracts. One included cutting the grass every seven days within the growing season (May through October). Through the process, Locklear said school principals scheduled times so the work does not interfere with children outside.
Some school leaders had criticisms of the work, but L.C. Kerr principal Jan Smith noted that she appreciated how the contractor does work when children are not there or during the weekend.
“Our teachers don’t have to worry about the sounds of mowers or mowers on the playground,” Smith said. “That’s a plus.”
Board chairwoman Georgina Zeng made a request to have more time to review the contract which goes through 2016.
“I don’t think it’s too much or too little,” Zeng said about the cost. “We just want more details.”
Locklear made a suggestion to bring different parties together to examine the services.