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Board of Education may move print facility

March 24, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

A $300,000 print shop proposal straight from the presses of the Washington County Board of Education hopes to build student expertise and sway other local governments to copy the idea.

The School Board wants to move its central office print shop facility and nine employees to a new location based out of an unused welding room at Washington County Technical High School. The $300,000 budgeted for the project in next year's Capital Improvement Plan would be used to renovate the welding room and buy digital presses for it, said William Blum, the school system's chief operating officer.

He said a new digital printing facility could be used to perform printing jobs for county and city governments, as well as for Hagerstown Community College. The school system would charge the other institutions less than a printing company would, but enough to offset the cost, he said.

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Bob Stambaugh, the school system's supervisor of purchasing, said the school system already has taken work from other government bodies to prove it could produce it on the types of digital presses the school system wants to buy.

"We're not designing this to take over the printing industry in the county," Blum said.

The School Board currently outsources a lot of its printing jobs to Hagerstown Bookbinding and Printing Co. Inc., a digital printing shop that has the capacity to do more than the single-color copies to which the school system shop is limited, Stambaugh said.

Schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen said the school system's shop prints everything from staff business cards and awards certificates to play programs and School Board manuals.

Stambaugh said the school system spends $30,000 to $40,000 a year outsourcing its printing.

The 25-year-old shop, based in the ground floor of the School Board's central office, is about 350 square feet of unleveled oil dirt floors, which have flooded during rains, said Dennis McGee, the school system's director of facilities management.

"You can't put electronic equipment in a humidity sensitive, unair-conditioned environment where paper gets wet," he said. "It's just not practical."

McGee said there also is asbestos in the ceiling of the shop.

The time press workers spend manually folding, binding and sorting the materials they produce at the School Board also is impractical, Blum said.

He said the shop creates 8,000 to 9,000 sheets per hour.

Joyce Fritz, the shop's supervisor, said the shop made 700,000 copies in February, which she called a slow month.

Economic Development Commission Executive Director Tim Troxell said there are about 8,000 people employed in Washington, Berkeley (W.Va.), Franklin (Pa.) and Frederick (Va.) counties in the printing industry. He said printing along the Interstate 81 corridor is one of the county's biggest industries.

"Hands-on experience is tough to beat," he said.

Arnold Hammann, the school system's supervisor of enrichment, said the existing print shop at the Technical High School still would be used for instruction, while the new print shop would be used by School Board personnel for production.

"You don't want to put production and instruction together as a blueprint," he said.

Instead, he said students in their senior year of printing classes could use the new facility to learn about digital presses, their maintenance and operation, and also to do internships.

He said there are 27 students in the printing program but expects that number to grow next year.

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