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Local

School board stays local despite price

Although a more expensive option, board sticks with Forbes for copier fleet lease in 5-2 vote

A more expensive bid from Forbes Office Solutions, which operates from a Newton office, was chosen by the Newton Community School District Board of Education instead of a cheaper bid from the Waukee-based Access Systems. Board members voted 5-2 to accept the bid from Forbes; likewise, they had voted 2-5 to accept the Access Systems bid, opting for a more local choice.
A more expensive bid from Forbes Office Solutions, which operates from a Newton office, was chosen by the Newton Community School District Board of Education instead of a cheaper bid from the Waukee-based Access Systems. Board members voted 5-2 to accept the bid from Forbes; likewise, they had voted 2-5 to accept the Access Systems bid, opting for a more local choice.

School board members rejected a cheaper offer from a Waukee-based contractor to lease copiers and printers for Newton campuses in favor of supporting a higher proposal from a local business.

After a motion to approve a $4,821 per month bid from Access Systems failed to pass by majority vote, members of the Newton Community School District Board of Education instead voted 5-2 in favor of the more expensive $5,397 per month offer from Forbes Office Solutions, which operates in Newton.

Access Systems proposed a $3,358 monthly fee for lease and service costs in addition to another monthly copies charge of $1,463. Forbes presented a $3,867 monthly bill for lease and service costs and a $1,529 per month payment for copies. 

Forbes will charge the school less than $40,300 per year for lease and service fees; costs for copies will be less than $17,560.

Proposals from both bidders were for a 60-month — or five-year — contract, set a monthly rate. If the school board had chosen Access Systems, the district would have saved more than $34,000 over a five-year period or more than $6,000 per year.

Tim Bloom, director of business services for Newton schools, reminded board members that two different funding sources would pay for these monthly charges. The lease and service costs would be paid for using federal Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) funds. Costs for copies are retrieved from the school’s general fund.

A lot of times, NCSD Tech Supervisor Shane Wheeler said, school districts don’t purchases copiers outright for budgetary reasons.

Sometimes staff do not know what to do with a bulky copier machine when it has reached the end of its life. Wheeler said it is usually easier to lease, which gives districts the option of updating their fleets sooner. The Newton schools would be reducing the number of copiers it has in its fleet, too.

“Some of our fleet is fairly old and it’s going to have to be replaced,” Wheeler said. “Not all of our fleet is that old, but a good chunk of our fleet is past its prime and been well-used.”

Robyn Friedman, president of the school board, said, “Thank you for your work on this. Clearly this is a massive project and there’s been some mystery work happening and figuring all this out and the bidding work on this.”

Wheeler thanked both Access Systems and Forbes for their collaboration on this particular project.

Prior to their decision, members of the school board — other than Cody Muhs and Josh Cantu — seemed hesitant to consider or second the motion to approve the quote from Access Systems, which would allow further discussion. 

However, longtime school board member Donna Cook was able to ask Wheeler if Access Systems’ location would impact response time. Wheeler said, if he remembers correctly, it shouldn’t, but conceded that it likely wouldn’t be as fast as a local provider.

Mitch Albert of Access Systems said the company and its 14 offices throughout the state have an average response time of 2.3 hours in the metro; Marshalltown, a city about 31.5 miles north of Newton, has Access Systems branches circling the area.

If need be, Albert argued, the company as four locations that can serve Newton campuses’ copier and printer needs.

Albert said Access Systems conducted a print assessment and learned the school district was spending about $6,000 per month on its copier services. One benefit to choosing Access Systems was the “significant cost savings” for the school, he added.

Cook said she also had a concern that the school board was not investing its money locally, which was a sentiment apparently shared by Friedman, Travis Padget, Graham Sullivan and Mark Thayer. Friedman shared that the board is not under any obligation to have to take the lowest bid in this situation.

Thayer said, “I suspect Forbes pays quite a bit in property taxes. I would like to support local if at all possible.”

Before school board members made their final vote, Albert said, “We have close to 300 state employees (and) that we do pay tax as well. From a response time, we have over $3 million in inventory in Wake. Our technicians are equipped with inventory in their vehicles, so from a response time you shouldn’t see any difference of a down tick than what you’re accustomed to.”

Cook asked aloud what the impact is on a local economy when a dollar is spent, to which board members answered $0.67 of every dollar. Padget said it can difficult to find that balance between choosing local and an alternative.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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