Baker School Board eliminates maintenance department in wake of arrest of former supervisor

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BAKER, Louisiana — The Baker School Board has voted to eliminate its maintenance department while retaining the department's four remaining employees.

The Advocate reports ( Tuesday's vote comes following the arrest of the department's former maintenance supervisor in the theft and unauthorized purchases amounting to $130,000 from the school district.

The original item on the agenda called for laying off the workers, two of whom appeared at the meeting and pleaded for their jobs.

The district's former maintenance supervisor, Emmitt Whitfield, resigned in December after being arrested in the theft of a $450 tree trimmer from the school district. He was later arrested again, accused of making unauthorized purchases for personal use amounting to $128,000 with the district's credit card.

The board appointed engineering firm Volkert Inc. to oversee maintenance for the district until June 30. A new superintendent is expected to be in place by that time and will make a decision about how to proceed, board President Elaine Davis said.

In March, the board approved a contract with Volkert to handle facilities management for the school district on an as-needed basis. The contract was capped at $100,000 and did not include grass cutting. After Tuesday's meeting, Volkert representative Clay Slagle said that overseeing the maintenance will be included under that contract.

"It just means I'll be doing more work for a while," he said.

Each job Volkert does will be billed to the district individually, as stated in the contract.

During the meeting, Slagle gave the board two options for how he could oversee maintenance at the school: either by supervising district employees or hiring an outside firm to handle grass cutting and other operations.

Board member Dana Carpenter made a motion to approve eliminating the maintenance department provided that Volkert keeps the four employees on staff until June 30.

Information from: The Advocate,

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