Mayor not pleased with BOE selection

COLUMBIANA — The city’s mayor is disappointed the local school district selected an out of area company to supply new copiers for the district instead of his family’s company.

Bryan Blakeman, who was not representing the city to the school district but was there on behalf of his company, Valley Office Solutions, told the board on Tuesday it would be “a shame” for the district to choose another company since his company provided the lowest monthly cost out of the three informal bids submitted.

Valley Office Solutions is owned by Blakeman’s parents and located in Boardman. It is operated by Bryan Blakeman.

Blakeman said, that with his own children in the district, he felt it was a shame the board would go with a company outside of the community.

“I think you guys do a great job. My kids go to school here. I won’t have hard feelings if you don’t do it, but I want folks to know it is an absolute shame,” he said.

The district received three informal bids from Ricoh USA, Valley Office Solutions and ComDoc for a 60-month lease term for the district’s copiers.

Ricoh offered 12 new copiers on its lease agreement while ComDoc offered nine new machines and three certified pre-owned machines. Valley offered 11 new machines, according to the copier agreement comparison provided by district Treasurer Kathy Davies.

The companies’ monthly cost estimates were submitted at $1,959 for Ricoh, $1,628 for Valley and $1,792 for ComDoc. Both Ricoh and Valley offered a fixed monthly cost, while ComDoc’s cost would escalate 5 percent per year.

A somewhat contentious discussion ensued during the meeting in which Blakeman said the figures provided to the board were not accurate, in that they reflected the “worst case scenario” of a 15 percent increase over the term of the lease.

Blakeman said he already gave the district his word there would be zero cost increase on the maintenance service agreement, but Davies and others on the board countered he made that statement after seeing the other companies’ figures during a presentation at last month’s board meeting.

It was at that meeting that Blakeman stated he wished to clarify that a cost increase would not be imposed by his company.

“The costs were never higher. It was based on how it was presented,” he said.

He added he didn’t feel it was presented “maliciously” but that Davies was only doing her job.

Board member Scott Caron said the other companies didn’t have a chance to make changes to what they submitted, but Blakeman refuted that he was making changes. He said he was only clarifying that there would be no increase.

Davies said she included the increase because the contract provided by Valley included language that said “up to a 15 percent increase” and that she repeatedly asked the company’s sales representative, Kevin Graham, about the terms, he told her “up to a 15 percent increase.”

Blakeman said the company’s maintenance contracts do state, generically, up to 15 percent, and pointed out that Graham is not allowed to state anything other than what the contract states, but he again stressed, that as a co-owner of the company, he had already gave the district his word it would not be imposed.

Graham also attended the meeting and confirmed that he was asked by Davies.

Davies also pointed out during the meeting that although Valley’s monthly cost was lower, the company has additional costs that factor in.

According to her lease comparison, Valley does not include toner collector or staples, and charges for freight at the prevailing rate while Ricoh includes toner collector and staples and has no freight or delivery charges.

Valley also provided only a 12 month service agreement term while Ricoh and ComDoc provided 60 months.

Valley also has a $4.75 per month administrative fee and charges $10 per device per month for network fees while Ricoh and ComDoc do not.

Installation costs were also not included in Valley’s costs while they were included in Ricoh and ComDoc’s estimates. Ricoh and ComDoc also provided a two to four hour response guarantee while Valley had no guarantee listed in its agreement.

Gail Clark, account manager and enterprise direct sales for Ricoh, said that Ricoh is already being used by several local schools, including Lisbon, Crestview, United Local, the Columbiana County Educational Service Center, Columbiana County Career and Technical Center, and many others.

“I have one shot to get you the best possible price I can get … if it’s less, it is what it is,” she said in response to Blakeman’s comments regarding Valley’s price.

The board decided at the end of the meeting to approve a 60-month lease for copier service with Ricoh. Board member Mark Hutson abstained from the vote.

When asked after the meeting why he abstained, Hutson said that since he is the city’s municipal attorney he did not want his vote to be seen as a conflict of interest.

kwhite@mojonews.com

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