Shelton’s Mayor has notified the Board of Education he will not allow any private contractor we hire to use the City-owned school buses or bus yard. His decision is likely to add a million dollars to the cost of our transportation for next year and our already underfunded budget.
How did we get here?
Last November, the City Purchasing Agent published a request for bids for our transportation contract. One of the bid specs was for the provider to use buses owned by the City and to rent the City bus yard and repair facility.
A couple months ago, while in our final negotiations, the Mayor expressed interest in providing our transportation services. Numerous meetings were held with the Mayor and/or his representatives and various staff and board members for the BoE. While there is no doubt serious efforts were made by the City to try to create a plan, no written plan or potential contract was ever produced for the Board to consider. The Board of Education intended to vote in March; we postponed our vote several times in order to give the City more time to prepare. On May 3rd, the bidder with the lowest price notified us they would withdraw their bid at the end of the day if we didn’t make a decision. If awarded the contract, they needed to prepare by hiring staff and making sure drivers have been retested by July 9th for summer school.
The reality that no alternate plan was produced is not a negative reflection on those tasked with creating a new transportation service; instead it proves how complex and difficult it is to do. As a result of the City’s inability to develop a plan for this year, the Board of Education chose Durham, a solid, reliable provider for student transportation.
Given a choice between Durham—an established, highly respected company—and an undeveloped program with undefined costs, no written proposal, and no experience running school buses, we made a business decision and went with the confidence-inspiring low bidder.
By changing the conditions for the bids and refusing to allow private contractors to use the taxpayer owned buses, the mayor has effectively created the conditions for significantly increased costs, while maintaining the position that the budget cannot be increased to meet the basic needs of our schools or provide for any of the program enhancements recommended by the BoE.
Shelton families deserve better.