Skip to main content

Columbus, Ohio

Keywords: Grounds Maintenance, Failed Contract

School Grounds Maintenance

For as long as anyone can remember, public schools in Columbus, Ohio, had used a private contractor to maintain the districts fifteen athletic facilities and eight large open fields. Public school employees had never bid on the contract because they lacked the special equipment necessary to do the job.

Around 1993 employees in the school landscaping and vehicle maintenance departments devised their own plan to bring the work in-house. The plan involved purchasing a new fifteen-foot wide bat-wing mower and repairing an aerator and a seeder that had been in storage for over fifteen years.

Following two years of lobbying school administrators, the school district accepted the employees proposal and canceled their existing agreement with a private contractor. Public employees took over the service beginning with the 1995-6 school year.

Savings from the public program totaled $105,000 during the first year of the contract (more recent data is not available). The public crew has also expanded its services beyond what the private contractor provided. For example, now all fields are aerated twice yearly, a service that would cost over $27,000 if a private contractor were hired to do the job.

Service quality also has improved since bringing the service back in-house. For example, the private contractor paid little attention to accommodating game schedules or to the quality of service beyond mowing. In contrast, public workers have even gone so far as to take soil samples to Ohio State University for analysis, so that the appropriate fertilizers can be applied in the spring. Theyve done a great job, according to Greg Van Horn, Athletic Director at Walnut Ridge High School, which makes us want to do a great job. Theyve made us all really happy.

"The value of the commitment demonstrated by OAPSE members, who took the initiative to improve services for our kids and to save money for the Columbus Public Schools, cannot be overestimated, said School board President Mark Hatch. We appreciate and can always count on this kind of loyalty and devotion from our OAPSE members.

Case based on OAPSE News, volume 56, number 3 December 1996/January 1997. pp. 1-2.