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Goodbye to Frazee school janitors?

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Frazee-Vergas School District has listened to two proposals for cleaning services at both schools, and are still trying to decide whether to hire a cleaning company or continue hiring janitorial services as in the past -- working for the district.

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Having heard from Dashir Management Services, Wisconsin, earlier, and Marsden Wednesday afternoon, the school board is still collecting more information to decide whether to hire one of the services or give the existing janitors higher standards. Either way, the three full-time unionized janitors at the school will stay employed.

The district also employs two employees on a 90-day probation, who would be able to apply for employment through the hired cleaning service if the board should go that route. The district also has one short-term, temporary custodian.

When it came time to discuss options, trying to compare costs and benefits proved confusing, not knowing what each quote was including. The Buildings and Grounds Committee is meeting Monday at 7:45 a.m. to put together a list of specs for a bid so the board will be able to compare apples to apples. The board will approve the list at that evening's regular meeting.

While the district has gotten many comments on the cleanliness of the facilities, there's always room for improvement.

Board member Steve Jepson said the district has gone from 12 custodians to six, so yes, some cleaning aspects are probably lacking, but the board and administration is constantly getting, and giving, rave reviews of how great the facilities look.

"I don't feel the need to go to outsourcing," he said.

He suggested hiring a manager to make sure everything is getting taken care of.

Board member Don Thorp agreed, "The staff you have on board are good."

He encouraged hiring Marsden if the board should go with a cleaning company, and if they are going forward with a service, they should do it now since there are only three full-time unionized employees at the district.

Jepson again said that a facilities manager was his suggestion and that the district's cleaning crew needed to get on a cycle to ensure everything got cleaned.

"What are we trying to do here -- get rid of our staff" even though everyone agrees they are doing a good job, he said.

It was assured though that the three unionized employees would not be fired and the others would be offered jobs as well.

During the Marsden presentation, the board saw a picture of how dirty the air handlers at the high school are. Jepson said those things are the district's own fault for not keeping them clean, and that can be fixed in the future now that they now about it.

"Things are not being maintained as they should," Principal Brian Koslofsky said.

"But whose fault is that," Jepson cut in.

Although the facilities do look nice on the surface, Koslofsky added, with a cleaning service coming in like presented Wednesday, the board and district would be "proud of them (the facilities) at a level we've never been before."

He said there's no use placing blame because this has been done over a 40-year period and it would take years to get the facilities up to the speed like Marsden is proposing to do in a couple weeks.

Board member Rich Zeigler said he was having "competing thoughts" on hiring out or not. Being told that the facilities "sparkle," "are we fixing something that's not broken? Is it for the sake of changing?"

Board member Dwight Cook said while the surface cleaning is good, the behind-the-scenes isn't, with pictures of the air handler to prove that.

Thorp agreed that while the cleaners are doing a good job on the surface cleaning, there isn't a mechanical staff to take care of items such as the air handlers.

After quite a bit of discussion, the board agreed to send the matter to the Buildings and Grounds Committee.

"Let's put it all on a level scale and see where it sits," board member Keith Janu said.

Janu, Thorp and Jepson sit on the Buildings and Grounds Committee.

Also at the meeting, although they couldn't approve the hiring of a boiler operator because they need a full board -- Nancy Dashner was absent -- since it is a board member applying for the job, some comments were made.

The district advertised for a boiler operator who must have proper licensure, and only one person applied -- Janu.

Janu told the other board members that he offered to do the job for free just to help the district, but was told he would have to be paid for liability insurance purposes. He said that if someone with the proper licensure should apply, he'll step down from the position.

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