In spite of objections from one man, Marshall County's School Board approved the lowest bid for mowing lawns at 11 school properties.
"The lowest bid is not always the best to take," exclaimed board member Curt Denton, who operates a landscaping business and lost the county commission's contract to mow the Courthouse lawn.
"Last time we went in the middle," Denton said.
Board member Barbara Kennedy complained there wasn't enough information.
"We can accept the lowest best bid if we want to," Kennedy said.
Nine lawn-care companies submitted bids after bidders were taken on a bus tour of the properties by maintenance supervisor Sheldon Davis. The properties were broken into five groups: the Cornersville schools; the Chapel Hill schools; Marshall Elementary, Spot Lowe and Lewisburg Middle; Oak Grove, Westhills, and Marshall County High School; and Central Office. Team Grass Hog was the low bidder for the Chapel Hill Schools, while Tom's Lawn Care submitted the low bid for the yard at Central Office. For the other three groups, Douglas Lawn Care was the low bidder, making it also the low bidder overall at $2,010 (per session of mowing and weedeating).
The high bidder was Bowen's Lawn Care, with a figure more than double what Douglas quoted.
"Let's accept Douglas as the lowest overall," said board member Kristen Gold.
"We can change if it doesn't work out," added Ann Tears.
Kennedy asked schools director Roy Dukes to be sure to ask principals for comments, in writing, about the quality of the lawn-care work done at their schools, and Donnie Moses suggested funneling these through Davis.
"Last time we took the lowest bid, it took about three tries to get a company that could do a good job," Denton said, before casting the lone vote against accepting Douglas.
Denton's was also the only vote against accepting the lowest bid for a conventional milling machine for Spot Lowe Vocational Center. At $9,915 Lewisburg Industrial and Welding's bid was $527 higher than General Industrial's.
"I'd rather go with a local company," said career technical director Lyn Stacey. "But General Industrial is a larger company, with possibly more ability to service the machine."
For a robotic workcell station, there was only one bid: Yaskawa Robotics at $37,400. This was accepted, with Denton again the only "no" vote.
In other financial business, board members voted 6 to 1, with two abstentions, to ask the county commission to buy half an acre of land surrounded on three sides by the Forrest campus.
"I don't like to be on record requesting the county to purchase land that's not filling a need," Gold said.
"I think it is filling a need," Randy Perryman said. "That abandoned house is there, and it's a hazard."
"It's an eyesore," added former Forrest principal Dr. Larry Miller, now interim assistant director of schools. "Owning that property will tie everything together."
Several board members mentioned the advantage of owning the property and tearing down the old house, which they viewed as a hazard and a temptation for students.
Kennedy, however, reminded board members that technically, right now, they were not liable for any injuries students suffered if they went into the abandoned house.
"It would be good to have," said Dukes, and chairman Mike Keny called for the vote.
Another Chapel Hill landowner, Thomas Wigington, offered to sell land near Forrest to the Board of Education last fall. This is a bigger and more expensive tract, and at Perryman's recommendation, board members decided to turn down the offer.
Returning for discussion at the April meeting will be the question of raising the charges for groups using school buses and vans since the price of gas has gone up, and the lights that have been donated for the soccer field at Marshall County High School.