School bus company cites Trinity district board's makeup in lawsuit
A Washington County school district trying to cut costs on school bus contracts discovered it's not as easy as opening the process to bids after nearly half a century of working with the same two companies.
One of the companies, GG&C, sued the Trinity Area School District over a number of issues, including that three of the nine board members work for the other company, Schweinebraten.
“The bus companies collectively are interested in doing anything they can for the district, students and parents to make this process as easy as possible,” said Richard Kelly, a Montgomery County lawyer representing GG&C, which has transported Trinity students through no-bid contracts since 1967, in a Common Pleas lawsuit against the district.
The three board members — Sandra Clutter, Jenene Hupp and William Clemens — were barred from bus contract discussions and votes, per a court agreement as part of the lawsuit. The remaining six members are weighing bids from four companies, including its current contractors.
“This is public money,” said board member Colleen Interval. “How are you going to know what the going rate is if you don't put it out for bid? We work for the taxpayers, not the bus companies.”
None of the other board members responded to requests for comment. Contracts with GG&C and Schweinebraten bus companies, both of Washington, expire June 30.
State law does not require public bids for bus contracts, said Jay Himes, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Officials in Harrisburg.
“But the fact that you are not required to do it does not mean it isn't something you ought to do periodically,” Himes said.
GG&C and Schweinebraten submitted bids for a 5-year contract along with First Student and Auxilio Services, both of Cincinnati. GG&C and Schweinebraten offered to extend their contracts for another year if the board cannot decide.
After the school board voted in November to seek bids, GG&C sued in December.
Board members on Thursday will discuss the bids and a possible lawsuit settlement behind closed doors before their regular meeting, said attorney Chris Furman, who represents the district. A settlement meeting with GG&C could be scheduled next week, he said.
“The board is deadlocked,” Furman said. “But we are resuming deliberations.”
The board voted 3-3 on March 7 on whether to accept bids for GG&C and Schweinebraten to continue splitting the bus services. GG&C handles 22 of the district's 33 bus routes. Schweinebraten handles the other 11.
Comparing bids by the four companies is a complex task. Bid options include figures for 11, 22 and all 33 routes, including and not including transportation for activities and sports and with or without fuel charges.
GG&C originally submitted what it said was an all-inclusive, 5-year bid for $9.1 million, but three post-deadline clarifications by the company put the bid at $8.7 million for all daily routes, not including extracurriculars.
“GG&C is in fact the lowest bidder,” Kelly said.
Trinity paid a total of $11.6 million to the two companies between 2007 and 2012.
It paid GG&C more than $8.2 million for 22 daily bus routes plus extracurriculars, state records show. The district paid Schweinebraten nearly $3.4 million over the same period for 11 daily bus routes and similar additional services.
GG&C offered to settle the lawsuit if the district awards it the bus contract, though Kelly declined to comment on those negotiations.
Interval said GG&C should be disqualified.
“My recommendation is to throw out all (GG&C) bids,” she said. “I refuse to vote on a contract where we have four bids from one company.”
Jason Cato is a staff writer for TribTotal Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Washington County military surplus store sold stolen items, detectives say
- Judge denies Pozonsky motion to throw out evidence
- Wanted sex offender caught hiding in homemade fort in Washington County