Highlands changes expectations for savings with new bus company | TribLIVE.com
Valley News Dispatch

Highlands changes expectations for savings with new bus company

Brian C. Rittmeyer
Brian C. Rittmeyer | Tribune-Review
Todd O’Shell, vice president of ABC Transit (right), responds to questions about his school bus company from the Highlands School Board, including members Heath Cohen and Bobbie Neese (left) on Wednesday, May 8, 2019.

Highlands School District says it will save only about half the money it expected to save by bringing on a new bus company.

And its current transportation provider, W.L. Roenigk, insists the district would actually save more than $1 million over five years by sticking with them.

The school board held a rare public committee meeting Wednesday during which it questioned representatives of both W.L. Roenigk and ABC Transit. School board President Debbie Beale said the board would not allow public comment during the meeting, and no residents challenged that declaration.

The school board has scheduled a special voting meeting for 7 p.m. Monday at the high school to award a contract. Residents will be able to speak before the board votes, Beale said.

That’s coming after the board voted 4-3 April 23 to award the contract to ABC Transit. It failed because five votes, a majority of the nine-member board, was needed.

District Business Manager Lori Byron changed her calculations for how much the district would save or gain over five years by going with ABC Transit.

In total, Highlands would save about $755,000 with ABC Transit, Byron told the school board.

That’s down from the $1.4 million figure Byron had previously presented.

She said the change was due to a new fuel proposal from W.L. Roenigk. How much Highlands would save on fuel by going with ABC over Roenigk fell by 83%, from $787,000 to about $135,000. That’s a difference of about $652,000, according to Byron’s presentation to the school board.

Byron stood by her calculation that, over a five-year contract, Highlands would save about $405,500 on vehicle costs with ABC Transit. Roenigk’s five-year cost is about $15.89 million; ABC’s is about $15.48 million, Byron said.

The district would also get $215,000 more from the state over five years because of ABC’s newer buses, which was also unchanged from Byron’s earlier presentation.

But Roenigk President Sue Roenigk said Highlands would actually save about $1.14 million over five years by staying with her company.

She said that was due in large part to bus runs where the cost is shared between Highlands and another school district also served by Roenigk.

Highlands shares 22 of 93 runs, about 24%, with neighboring districts, she said.

“I hope they take the time to really understand this,” she said.

Todd O’Shell, vice president of ABC Transit, stood by his company’s proposal to the district.

“We put our best foot forward,” he said.

In response to questions and concerns from board members, O’Shell said ABC Transit could have its facilities, vehicles and drivers ready for the start of school in the fall. It would seek to hire Roenigk’s drivers now on Highlands routes, and offer signing bonuses.

“We want them to work for us,” he said. “We want them to stay in this district.”

O’Shell said ABC Transit is prepared to lease property on Springhill Road and would look to buy property for a garage should it get the Highlands contract.

“If you choose us, we will get it done,” ABC President Aaron Silverman said.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at 724-226-4701, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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