Choice Partners purchasing cooperative offers quality, legal procurement and contract solutions to meet government purchasing requirements. We also meet all of the EDGAR/Uniform Guidance/2 CFR 200 requirements!

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Vendor Spotlight

Students See New Standards in the Lunchroom

Posted on September 3, 2014

From implementing changes in the arrangement of food in the cafeteria to the way school district business offices apply for reimbursement, school districts are working to be more efficient while serving affordable and healthy food. 

With more than 5 million students returning to about 9,500 Texas schools, millions of breakfasts and lunches are being served every day.

Just less than two months ago, updated national standards for school nutrition went into effect from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids’ Act. Although the Act was passed in 2010, new standards have been added each year. This year, a whole cup of fruit must be offered at breakfast, and all breads need to be rich in whole grains and lower in sodium. The new regulation addressing calories, saturated and trans fats, salt and sugars, applies to all foods. So to address the new healthy options requirements, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) changed the nutrition standards for snacks and beverages sold in schools whether in vending machines, cafeterias, school stores or for fundraising.

From accounting for indirect food costs and increasing meal appeal to minimizing plate waste, schools are strategizing to ensure that these new meal standards are successfully implemented, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.*

Many districts are working to ensure students have the energy and stamina to learn by providing free breakfast and lunch for at-risk students, sometimes with funding through the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program or the 2010 Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Changes in requirements for school-served foods made by the USDA, are challenging to the suppliers.

“The USDA handing down changes is one of the biggest challenges my company faces,” said Douglas Kurz of Kurz & Co., who supplies bread products for school districts.

“Beginning July 1, the USDA requires all bread products in the schools to be at least 51% whole grain, and Kurz has helped get us to that point as quickly as possible,” explained Shirley Parker, assistant director and dietitian at Humble ISD. “They knew about the change immediately and started talking to us about it, listening to our needs and helping us figure which products were our priorities.”

Rebecca Kenefic, dietetic supervisor of Child Nutrition Service at Spring Branch ISD, said making the transition to whole grain bread products was not difficult for Spring Branch ISD, which started ordering Kurz & Co.’s qualifying “white wheat” bread products four years ago.

“We have already been using Kurz’s whole grain products for several years,” she said. “We love their bread.”

WHOLEHEARTED COMMITMENT
Labeling itself the “Good Bread” Company, Kurz & Co. specializes in delivering fresh bread, buns, rolls, tortillas and other baked goods to large institutional customers, particularly schools. Choosing not to deliver to grocery stores and restaurants means its energies are more focused.

Douglas Kurz said that other companies that strive to serve schools under the USDA’s regulations often have to resort to frozen options, but Kurz & Co. is committed to producing and shipping fresh bread.

“We are the only company that can do it fresh,” Kurz boasted. “Our company is unique – we don’t serve any retail. We are the only company that meets the USDA recommendations to develop the product specifically for schools.”

BAKING UP A STORM
Kurz & Co.’s reputation for reliable delivery, quick communication and excellent customer service – even in spite of inclement weather – has helped the company expand in recent years.

“Since 2004 we have grown tremendously,” Kurz said, mentioning that he’s added 600 schools each year for the past two years to his delivery routes.

He has also found loyal customers through use of the Choice Partners cooperative contract. Kurz & Co. is HCDE’s only competitively awarded contract holder for bread products. They can deliver in the Houston, San Antonio and Dallas areas using the Choice Partners contract.

 “We love Choice Partners!” said Spring Branch ISD’s Kenefic. “It’s really great having the freedom to go between the vendors we like. It’s a great co-op to be a part of.”

For more information, contact Doug Kurz at 713-861-9955, dougkurz@kurzco.com.   Choice Partners members can log in and see the details of the Choice Partners contract at https://www.choicepartners.org/vendors/kurz-and-company

*http://www.cspinet.org

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Increase Efficiencies

Posted on August 27, 2014

School districts, cities and other governmental entities that use the Dahill contract for copiers and printing services get more than just cutting-edge equipment—they get access to Dahill’s friendly, knowledgeable and fast-moving support team.

        Galena Park ISD uses the Dahill contract through Choice Partners cooperative and has been satisfied with the results—particularly its online service platform. With a variety of Xerox 

copiers across its campuses, the Houston-area school district knows that maintenance problems can arise, whether it’s a paper misfeed or an empty toner cartridge.

        Lynn Nutt, logistics coordinator at Galena Park ISD, said she’s happy with Dahill’s set up for service requests and supply orders.

        “We do it all online so you get a confirmation right away,” Nutt said. “We can order supplies or place a service call—it’s really easy.”


The online maintenance and supplies service is so simple, in fact, that Nutt trains the campus staff to go directly to Dahill instead of calling her! 

         Considering that most Galena Park ISD campuses have a copier that can print 30 pages per minute (ppm) and at least one that runs 95 ppm, the added speed with supplies and service calls really adds up to time saved in the work room. It’s no surprise, then, that Nutt called her Dahill contract “very satisfactory overall.”

        The city of Brownsville is also pleased using the Choice Partners contract with Dahill, primarily for networked “all-in-one” machines that can copy, scan and fax.

        “Our experience has been great,” said Gerardo Noriega, purchasing agent for the city of Brownsville. “We have not had any issues with salespeople or the service team. Our departments are happy using their services.”

        Noriega said Dahill continuously follows up to ensure the city’s needs are met.         

        “They are a very attentive company,” Noriega said.

        Furthermore, members appreciate that the Choice Partners contract covers more than just hardware. 

        “Everything we’ve asked for, supplies, maintenance, service parts, all of the consumable supplies, are included in the contract,” said Nutt. “It allows us to do more with less!”

        Nutt also notes “it’s easier and more efficient” using the Choice Partners contract than those of other cooperatives.  Plus she appreciates that the Choice Partners contract allows for flexibility in how Galena Park ISD sets up its reconciliation.

    Noriega said the city of Brownsville has also had good experience using Choice Partners contracts. “We have not had any issues with the co-op or with the co-op’s vendors,” he said.
        To see details on any of the four Dahill contracts, go to www.ChoicePartners.org/vendors/php and type Dahill in the search box. 

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Grandview ISD, HCDE and Brandt Companies partner

Posted on August 20, 2014

Grandview ISD students returning to cool, air-conditioned classrooms in the midst of blistering August heat have a few people to thank.

One is Joe Perrin, superintendent of the small, rural 2A district south of Fort Worth—so small that Perrin wears (and shares) many hats, from purchasing agent to curriculum leader to chief executive officer. Another is Greg Lookabaugh, Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) senior manager of facilities planning, who along with consultant David Simmons worked with Superintendent Perrin to finish a heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) project in a couple of months.

Perrin said the legalities of the bid process and the steps needed to replace over a dozen 30-year-old HVAC units might have taken him a year if he had done it alone, but with HCDE’s help the job sped up rapidly.

“The help allowed us to complete the project before this school year, which probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise,” Perrin said.

Lookabaugh and Simmons walked Perrin through the planning and development stages first, ensuring that Grandview ISD was matched with a quality engineer. Then, for installation, the time came to select a vendor with a legally procured HVAC contract.

“I involved several Choice Partners awarded vendors, inviting them to quote the project based on the engineer’s designs and specifications,” Lookabaugh said.

Grandview ISD chose The Brandt Companies—yet another hero in this story.

Construction took the company about seven days from the day the crane arrived until the project was finished.

“The big drama on this project was the equipment,” said Danny Ramirez, business development, The Brandt Companies. “We were not sure it would be here on time.”

But The Brandt Companies got the order pushed up, and the equipment arrived. They finished the project on budget, on time and with customer satisfaction.  Ramirez said what “went great” was the coordinating done by HCDE.

“[Lookabaugh] did an awesome job on his end, which made everyone else’s job easier,” Ramirez said. “He stayed on top of everything, communicating to make sure everyone was in the loop.”

A local contractor familiar with Grandview ISD’s building controls also worked with The Brandt Companies to connect new equipment to the existing operating system.

“The process went really well,” Perrin said. “I was very pleased. I’d definitely do it again.”

Lookabaugh added that the success seen in this project exemplifies HCDE’s unique brand of collaboration.

“I brought coordination and efficiency in implementation, and I utilized legally procured Choice Partners vendor contracts,” he said. “This is a facility management service that no other co-op offers.”

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High Point Sanitary Solutions

Posted on November 1, 2012

Featured Contract

Terrazzo floors shine like mirrors with new process

Innovations in terrazzo floor care mean fewer chemicals and labor, while creating a glossy floor finish that lasts longer. Scott Uselman, High Point Sanitary Solutions, reports that the new diamond polishing process creates a shine on the terrazzo that can’t be duplicated.  The method produces beautiful, glossy floors without the labor, chemicals, equipment and time needed to scrub, strip, recoat with wax and buff.

“I couldn’t apply enough wax to get this much shine,” said Mr. Uselman.

Sheldon ISD used the new polishing method and saved significant dollars while also improving the appearance of their facilities. Christine Derryberry, Sheldon ISD coordinator for facilities and safety, credits Choice Partners contract holder High Point Sanitary Solutions, with making it possible to get a return on investment in just four months at the first campus where they tested the process. Mr. Uselman trained the Sheldon ISD custodial staff to do the job themselves, which worked perfectly, and cost less than half the estimate of $30 - $45,000.

“Scott is such an honest, good guy -- he has saved us a ton of money. Diamond polishing is probably the best thing we’ve done in this district,” said Derryberry. “The key was training our crew and doing it in-house.”

Because of that success, they have phased in the process district-wide, using up all the products they had on hand. Ms. Derryberry reports there is no wax on the floors in Sheldon ISD, yet the floors are so shiny they “look like a mirror.”  Having such glossy floors has made their high school look “like a million bucks,” according to Ms. Derryberry. She reported that recently someone was visiting the high school and couldn’t believe the facility was 50 years old.

“I just can’t recommend it enough,” said Ms. Derryberry. “It's very cost effective and the results are fabulous.”

Before diamond polishing was implemented, they had to purchase all the products needed – wax, stripper, special shoes – and then do the work to strip and recoat the floors. About every year someone fell on the slick floors, so there was also a related workers compensation expense.  Now that cost is gone and the floors are maintenance free, with the exception of the small riding scrubbers, which “does the work of about three people,” she said.

“Every time we ride the scrubber, it polishes the floor,” said Ms. Derryberry. “It looks like a mirror!”

With Scott's help, Sheldon ISD purchased a used machine to do the initial polishing, then was able to sell it for slightly more than they bought it.

She appreciates Scott’s help in recommending custodial products also. One product he suggested took the place of 17 others.

“He really is my advisor,” she said. “The stuff he has works.”

High Point Sanitary Solutions is working with other school districts in the Houston area, but the process works for courthouses, government buildings or wherever there is terrazzo.

“We teach clean,” said Mr. Uselman, “We will go anywhere we are needed.”

For more information about High Point Sanitary Solutions Choice Partners contract 09/017LB-B-03, call 713-694-8300 or email scott@highpointss.com.

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University JOC Projects

Posted on September 1, 2012

Featured Contract

Vaughn Construction Completes JOC Project at UNT


Awarded contract holder Vaughn Construction has been using their Choice Partners contract at the University of North Texas Health Science Center and at Texas Tech Health Science Center.

At the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, Vaughn Construction has done several projects, including reconfiguring and modernizing space to create a lecture hall with a sloped floor and elevated seating, creating labs out of a storage room and renovating space for faculty and administration offices.

Brian Jordan, UNTHSC construction manager, said one of the issues was working inside an occupied facility.

“We needed to get classrooms up and running in a short amount of time,” said Jordan. “So that’s where using the Choice contract was most beneficial, in that we didn’t have to go through a time consuming bid process.”

The university used Choice Partners legal, competitively bid and government awarded contract with Vaughn Construction. Jordan said the Job Order Contracting (JOC) process also allowed them to move more quickly.

“You price it out in [RS] Means [price book] and we’re good to go,” said Jordan.

For the research lab project, Jordan said the biggest challenge was converting the HVAC for the small 1,500 sq. ft. storage room into five individual rooms, each with their own specific controls and their own HVAC requirements. The labs feature stainless steel casework, epoxy floors and a clean environment, with controlled air pressure and unique HVAC system.

Jordan said UNTHSC was pleased with the end result, as it was critical to have a controlled environment.

“If the environment is out of kilter it can have a huge impact on the results of these animal experiments,” said Jordan. “This is one of the best functioning labs we have on campus, with respect to the performance of the pressure differentials within the lab space and maintaining constant temperature.”

At Texas Tech Health Science Center in El Paso, Vaughn Construction projects included extending a parking lot and renovating the Regional Academic Health Center façade.

According to Luke Vaden, Vaughn Construction senior project manager, the space for the parking lot extension was to be created by demolishing a structure previously known as Tequila Frogs. As they progressed, it was discovered that the structure had a shared wall with another building that was made out of adobe brick, which was a building material more commonly used 100 years ago. The adobe wall made the demolition more surgical in nature as some of the structure was built into the wall. In order to protect the existing building, a CMU wall was built out from the Adobe wall and waterproofed and plastered, once demolition was complete.

The façade renovation included removing old sealants and resealing, cleaning calcium deposits from windows, and repainting. Normally this would be an easy process, but the building was surrounded by sidewalks and the entrances could not be disrupted. To remedy this obstacle, Vaughn worked closely with the HSC staff to reroute traffic when appropriate and used tunnels to protect staff when entering and existing the building.

Vaughn Construction offers a detailed and comprehensive approach to projects, with company owners and principals involved in every project.

“We like to say we combine sophisticated construction management techniques with the hands-on approach of a traditional general contractor,” said Tom Vaughn, chief executive officer of Vaughn Construction.

For more information about Vaughn Construction, go to www.vaughnconstruction.com or call Rodney Moore at 713-589-7400.

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