Thorpe changes bus service
Jim Thorpe Area School District has decided to consolidate all of its bus services with a single transportation contractor.
On Wednesday, school board members decided that Brandywine Transportation would receive the five-year contract to provide all busing services to the school district. Brandywine, which is located in Berks County but has a depot on Route 534, submitted a five-year bid costing $9,984,060.
The only other company to submit a bid was Kuhn Transportation, which has the bus contractor for the L.B. Morris school since 2005.
Kuhn’s bid only covered only about half of the district’s bus routes.
The vote on the contract was 6-2 with John Ciavarella and Dennis McGinley voting against, and Michael Principe absent.
Ciavarella said he wasn’t familiar enough with the bids for the project to confidently vote. When the board’s attorney told him that he couldn’t abstain from the vote, he voted no.
Just before the vote Dennis McGinley tried to delay the decision to a future meeting, but he failed to get any support from the rest of the board.
The new contract takes effect in the 2019-20 school year. Over the course of five years, it will cost the district about $9.984 million.
The district currently has 45 bus routes. Brandywine will consolidate some of the bus routes if possible to save money.
Brandywine will provide the buses and drivers, and make sure that both meet all state requirements for bus drivers.
The district provides fuel for the buses.
The request for proposals put out by the district when they were seeking the contract has some new proposals which weren’t previously required.
Board member Ronnie Marciante said the board held a competitive bidding process in order to save the school district money on busing contracts.
He pointed out that the governor and auditor general of Pennsylvania have recommended that school districts competitively bid their bus contracts to save taxpayer money.
“DePasquale and Wolf recommended this, and I believe we took his recommendation,” Marciante said.
The bus contractor is required to provide a fleet of buses with an average age less than 6 years, and no buses older than 10 years.
They will also be required to install radio and video surveillance systems on board.
Board member Wilmer Redline said Brandywine will provide 24 2020 model year buses to fulfill the contract.
Incoming superintendent John Rushefski, who is consulting for the district, said that the board considered cost as well as safety, and the new buses provided by Brandywine should be safer than an older fleet.
“This contract provides the situation of having newer buses and safe buses,” Rushefski said. The state also prioritizes having a newer fleet when it looks at how much to give districts in transportation subsidies.
The state’s formula takes into account miles traveled, bus capacity, and the bus’s age. Buses over four years get less subsidy than buses which are 1-3 years old.
“The more money you get back from the state. The newer the bus, the more money you get back,” Redline said.
For the last 10 years Brandywine has split the bus routes in the Jim Thorpe School District with Kuhn Transportation, which is located in Jim Thorpe.
The two companies were the only ones to bid on a contract to handle busing for the entire district, starting at the beginning of the next school year.
Kuhn was unable to submit a bid for all 45 routes. Owner Bob Kuhn said it wouldn’t be possible to get enough qualified drivers to cover all 45 routes.
Kuhn, himself a former bus driver in the district, said the requirements for a newer fleet, radios and video cameras made it more difficult to bid competitively.
Redline said that the board looked at the cost if Kuhn continued to cover 23 routes, and Brandywine got the rest. It cost about $1.1 million more than Brandywine’s proposal for all 45 routes.
In other business the board voted to invest reserve funds at Jim Thorpe Neighborhood Bank. They also considered a proposal from Mauch Chunk Trust. Finance committee Chairman Clement McGinley said a nine-month certificate of deposit from JTNB with a principal of $5 million will net the district about $90,000 in interest over the next nine months.
Board member Jerry Strubinger asked if any other banks were considered.
“We went with the banks that paid tax dollars into the district,” President Pearl Downs-Sheckler said.