Highlands hires new bus company; longtime provider threatens to sue
W.L. Roenigk didn’t take kindly to Highlands School District’s decision Monday to hire a new transit company as its school bus contractor.
“We’re not done,” company President Sue Roenigk said after the board voted 7-1 Monday to award a five-year contract to ABC Transit.
Pat Roenigk, an attorney and shareholder in the company, said their next step would be to consider a lawsuit.
“They acted arbitrarily and capriciously,” Pat Roenigk said.
Superintendent Monique Mawhinney said awarding the contract to ABC remained her recommendation.
In April, a vote to award the contract to ABC Transit failed on a 4-3 vote because five votes, a majority of the nine-member board, were needed.
On Monday, with all nine members present, only Misty Chybrzynski voted against ABC Transit. Robert Betts, who was absent from the April 23 vote, voted in favor. Michelle Peters and Bobbie Neese changed their votes from no to yes.
Jeff Mundy, who worked for both companies, abstained as he did in the previous vote.
In a presentation last week, Highlands Business Manager Lori Byron said the district will save about $755,000 with ABC Transit. That was down from a $1.4 million estimate she had previously presented.
Sue Roenigk disputes the accuracy of Byron’s figures and argues that Highlands would save about $1.6 million over five years by sticking with her family’s company.
“The board should vote to award the contract to Roenigk tonight, based on the bottom line, our proven track record and our exemplary service,” she said.
Sue Roenigk said her company’s numbers were presented to the school board in a way that was misleading and that they were miscalculated in ABC’s favor.
“No matter how you compare the two contractors, Roenigk is the least expensive choice,” she said.
“I have great respect for those of you on the board that have had to endure this extremely difficult process,” Sue Roenigk said. “I am proud that my drivers have stood behind my family, and touched by the support from the community. We have provided you with the facts and figures necessary to show you that the taxpayers in this district can pay less and still receive the level of service they currently experience.”
No representatives of ABC Transit spoke during the meeting.
Several people questioned whether ABC Transit would be ready to serve Highlands by the start of the 2019-20 school year, including having the necessary facilities, buses and drivers. The company’s representatives previously said they will be ready.
If the company fails to meet its obligations, district Solicitor Ira Weiss said remedies and penalties would be available under the contract.
John Briney was among residents who spoke in favor of keeping Roenigk.
“You have a system that isn’t broken,” he said. “I don’t know why you want to fix it.”
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .