Several city-owned school buses fail inspection

UPDATE: Mayor Mark Lauretti said Friday that work is underway to get all city-owned buses registered before school starts — following news earlier this week that several failed state inspection. The mayor said many of the minor issues have already been resolved.

When asked if all repairs will be made before a special Board of Education meeting next Wednesday, Lauretti replied "I want to say, probably."

The mayor said much of the work is minor and covered under warranty.

Original Story: Roughly half of 60 city-owned school buses will need work — mostly minor — before getting on the road for the first day of school Sept. 4.

That’s according to Superintendent Christopher Clouet, who told the Board of Education Wednesday night several buses failed recent state DMV inspections. He didn’t say exactly how many buses are affected but he confirmed it is “approximately half.”

“Many of the buses have repairs that need to take place in order to be roadworthy and registered to operate,” Dr. Clouet said. “Most are minor repairs so it does seem possible. But, as all of you know, when you open the hood of your car to fix one thing others can be found.”

It’s the latest complicating factor in what Dr. Clouet called “a highly unusual set of circumstances” that has included a legal battle with the city over the district’s contract with Durham School Services, a transportation vendor.

“We’re less than two weeks before the start of school and we still don’t really know where we stand on having transportation for our kids on the first day of school,” Board Chairman Mark Holden said. “If we hadn’t had this disagreement with the city over the use of buses, Durham would have had these buses on July 1.”

Earlier this summer, the City of Shelton filed a lawsuit against the Board of Education related to its contract with Durham. The two sides reached a settlement in July that specifies the city will lease its buses to Durham for $1 this school year. However, the city and Durham have still not finalized that contract.

Projected savings in that tentative transportation contract would be used, in part, to eliminate Pay to Participate fees. The Board voted Wednesday, Aug. 8 to eliminate pay to participate fees, contingent upon that new one-year contract with Durham School Services saving the district $450,713.

With no contract signed, pay to participate fees are still in place.

“So, to summarize, Chris, at this moment we are where we were prior to our meeting Aug. 8,” board member David Gioiello asked Dr. Clouet.

“We are back to bare bones,” Dr. Clouet responded. “The cuts we put in place are back, until further notice.”

The board has scheduled a special meeting next Wednesday, Aug. 29, to get an update on the repairs and the transportation contract.

“That date is important because Durham must have access to the buses by the 29th in order to complete practice runs in time for school,” Holden said.

Repair costs

Who will be covering the costs of the bus repairs remains unclear.

“The city owns the buses so they, in my view, would be responsible for upkeep and maintenance but they also have every right to negotiate with the vendor,” Dr. Clouet said.

Dr. Clouet told The Herald he has not spoken directly to Mayor Mark Lauretti about the repairs.

Gioello suggested the district’s previous vendor, Landmark, should have found some of these issues in its own safety inspections.

“Somewhere along the line our previous vendor may not have been doing the job,” he said.

Holden noted the state DOT inspections were extremely thorough, taking multiple days to check all buses.

Dr. Clouet said, despite the short notice, no bus will be on the road without passing the state inspection.

“Parents should know no buses will roll out of the bus yard unless they meet all safety requirements,” he said. “We hope that happens in next five or six. working days.”

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