County to give up school supply cache

April 21, 1997


Staff Writer

It's out of a few things, like yellow highlighter pens and the no. 2 pencils with the Washington County Board of Education's imprint.

But the shelves of the school board's cavernous warehouse on North Avenue are still well-stocked with more than a thousand different office and school supplies worth about $500,000, according to Washington County school officials.

The stock will thin a bit as internal orders for the coming school year are filled, said Jeff Harr, who as facilities assistant/operations has the job of overseeing the warehouse.


After those orders are out, most of the rest of the items - including a rainbow assortment of paint, paper and pens - will be offered to other school systems and local governments in Western Maryland, Harr said.

The goal is to liquidate the stock as soon as possible, since the school board will have to clear it out if the county sells the old North Street School building that houses the warehouse, he said.

At this point, the board gets the roughly 14,000-square-foot basement space rent-free from the county, Harr said.

However, the decision to get out of the warehousing business has more to do with a narrowed price gap between bulk and as-needed buying than finding alternate warehouse space, he said.

From flash cards to first aid provisions, crayons to copy paper, the board's warehouse has been stocking items to fill the school system's needs for more than 25 years, said Harr.

It was policy for staff to try to order items through the warehouse - which would supply them to their school or department at cost - before going elsewhere, he said.

Three years ago, the warehouse was computerized, allowing staff to order supplies through the school secretary, who could tell at a glance if something was in stock, Harr said.

If something was out of stock, they used to have the option of back ordering, he said.

That ended when the school board decided to get out of the warehousing business about a year ago, when the warehouse carried about 2,000 different items, Harr said.

Since then, no school or office supplies except white copy paper - used in high volume - has been reordered, he said.

Inventory value, based on how much the school system paid, has dropped from around $1 million to about $500,000, Harr said.

The warehouse - consisting of seven main rooms, a long corridor and numerous closet-size spaces - is far from empty.

All types of art, office and classroom supplies fill the metal shelves and floors of one large room.

The first three long rows of shelves contain standard office fare, like tape, staplers, notebooks and glue, as well as things like chalk, crayons and attendance books.

Another area has computer supplies, including a huge box of mouse pads, computer screen cleaner and computer diskettes.

Down the hall, first aid supplies like rubbing alcohol, bandages and latex gloves are stored with an odd mix of things, including red food coloring, lemon juice, aluminum pie plates, aquarium gravel, small fish bowls, top soil and colored balloons.

Those items are used in home economics classes, Harr said.

While school system officials are hoping warehouse shelves will be cleared by summertime, September or October is probably more realistic, Harr said.

Getting out of the warehousing business will save the school system about $70,000, including personnel and in-system delivery costs, Harr said.

The warehouse staff will be cut from two full-time and one part-time workers to one part-time worker who will oversee a much smaller-scale operation, he said.

The displaced warehouse workers will be offered other jobs in facilities management, Harr said.

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