School board to purchase Ecolab chemicals

By Shelby Harrell Staff Writer | Aug 12, 2014
Photo by: Shelby Harrell Bruce Johnson, co-owner of Champion Supply, voices his concerns about the Haywood County Board of Education's pending to contract with Ecolab for cleaning chemicals.

After listening to a dispute over which bid for cleaning products is the best value, the Haywood County Board of Education voted Monday night to contract with Ecolab at the recommendation of the school's child nutrition director, Alison Francis.

The board unanimously voted to purchase its cleaning products from Ecolab, with the intention of reviewing the contract after one year.

For more than a decade, Haywood County Schools has contracted with Champion Supply to purchase its dishwashing chemicals — dish detergent, rinsing agent and lime remover. The rest of the school’s cleaning chemicals, such as floor and glass cleaner, have been purchased from SFS Pac.

But this year, Francis opened the bidding process to other companies and recommended that the Haywood County Board of Education contract with the national company Ecolab, based in Minnesota, for all its chemical cleaning products for the 2014-15 school year.

The chemical bid contract came before the school board in June but the vote was tabled after Bruce Johnson, co-owner of Champion Supply, found out that his company’s bid was not chosen and he asked board members to wait on voting.

Johnson argued that the numbers on the bid reflected a cheaper cost for the school system, according to his financial analysis, but Francis contends that her choice to go with Ecolab will be cheaper over time because the chemicals have proven to be more effective in the school kitchens.

Johnson was in attendance at the meeting and expressed his frustrations about losing the school’s business and the financial analysis Francis had performed. According to him, her numbers were not valid, and he said he was willing to bet money on it.

“I’m here to say today that I’ll donate $1,000 to the school’s foundation if you find any registered CPA (certified public accountant) that says that analysis that was done was valid,” Johnson told the board. “And I mean that. I would love to donate that money because the analysis just was not valid.”

Johnson also said it was unfortunate that the bidding process started so late, (in June) which necessitated a quick decision before the issue could be resolved.

“Our bid would have saved the county thousands of dollars, but the process was started pretty late,” he said. “And here we find ourselves with school starting next week, so I don’t think you have any choice but to approve the bid today for Ecolab as much as that hurts me and my business and the people that depend on our business for their livelihood.”

In the end, Johnson requested that the board revisit the bid next spring.

“I’ve given hundreds of hours to our schools foundation so I’m asking you for a couple of hours next spring … start the process early and please rebid me,” Johnson said.

But Johnson wasn’t the only one who spoke out about the chemical bid contract during the meeting. Several cafeteria staff members from Haywood County schools expressed their positive experience with using Ecolab chemicals.

Sherrie Kilby, who works in the Bethel Elementary School cafeteria, said Ecolab provided great customer service and added that their products cleaned better, dried faster, doesn’t cause as much lime buildup in the machines.

She also said she did not agree with the claims that Johnson was making, and said losing a bid was just a part of business.

“Just because a person has a long list of credentials, accolades and ties to the community does not merit them to bully in order to get the business they were outbid,” Kilby said. “At Haywood County Schools, there is a zero tolerance policy against bullying in our student population. Why should our population at Haywood County Schools expect any less?”

Ginger Moore, a cafeteria manager at Jonathan Valley Elementary School, also vouched for Ecolab’s efficient cleaning products. She said JVES had used Ecolab products during a pilot experiment during a semester of the 2013-14 school year, at which time eight schools used Champion products and the other eight used Ecolab as a way to compare cost and quality.

“We were just in awe of the product,” Moore said. “The reason nothing was ever brought to the attention of Champion Supply before about the soap scum problems was because that’s how it always had been for all the 13 years. Until we used a new chemical, we didn’t realize it could be any cleaner or any better or easier to use.”

Moore also said her kitchen staff had pointed out that Ecolab was cleaning more efficiently.

“My employees brought it to my attention and since they’re the ones elbow deep in the cleaning, they’re going to speak up for whatever makes the job easier and more efficient,” Moore said. “This is one change that we made that I can really support.”

Sandy Watts, a cafeteria manager North Canton Elementary School, described herself as having good relationship with Johnson, but said her staff had also noticed an overwhelming difference in Ecolab’s cleaning chemicals.

“It’s strictly business with our budget cuts,” Watts said. “When we started using Ecolab, Alison (Francis) asked us to give an opinion and let her know. She was not out to just go with the company she wanted our honest opinion about it.”