School print shop concerns private companies

Area printers have said they could lose business if the School Board offers services at a reduced cost.

Area printers have said they could lose business if the School Board offers services at a reduced cost.

April 07, 2003|by TARA REILLY

Some area printers have expressed concerns that a digital print shop proposed for Washington County Technical High School would take business away from private printing companies, County Commissioner James F. Kercheval said this week.

The Washington County Board of Education has proposed spending $300,000 to move its outdated print shop from the central office to the technical high school. That cost includes renovating a room at the school and buying digital presses.

School Board member Roxanne Ober said by phone Thursday night the proposed move would save money while training students for jobs in the printing industry.


"That's a very, very lucrative opportunity for our students," Ober said.

The School Board makes about 25 million copies a year, she said.

William Blum, the School Board's chief operating officer, said last month the shop could be used to do printing jobs for other local governments at a cost lower than printing companies would charge. But he said the shop wouldn't be designed to take over the printing industry in the county.

Kercheval said he received phone calls from printers who are concerned they would lose business if the School Board offered the services at a reduced cost.

"I always have a concern when government tries to compete against local businesses," Kercheval said in a phone interview Wednesday night. "I don't really see that as our field."

Chris Cummins of Printers Press Inc. in Hagerstown said Thursday he didn't think the proposed shop was good for the industry.

"I don't think it's really fair to make us compete with somebody who's subsidized by the taxpayers," Cummins said. "I just say it's a bad idea all the way around."

Sam Wright of Tri-State Printing Inc. in Hagerstown said he also has concerns about the School Board's proposed shop and hopes to discuss them with school officials.

Wright said Friday he didn't have a problem with the School Board doing in-house work, but the possibility that the board might compete with local printers for outside jobs was causing him concern.

Cummins said local printers already face competition from the state prison's printing service, and any more competition might force private printers to lay off employees or cut their hours.

Ober said the School Board's proposed digital shop would save tax dollars if it consolidated printing services with the county and city governments.

"I think the three governments have to look at consolidating services to be able to save the taxpayers money," Ober said.

She said she did not yet have a cost-savings estimate. Whether the School Board would take on jobs outside the local governments would have to be looked at, she said.

County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said the school system's print shop should be considered if it's going to save money, but he cautioned against the School Board competing for jobs.

"If we get to a point where they're going to be competing for jobs in the private industry, I guess we have to set ground rules for that," Wivell said.

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