to seek RFP’s (requests for proposal) from other companies. While Rinehimer put forth an RFP, the Mountain Top Bus Company, not Rinehimer, was awarded the contract.
Crestwood’s transportation cost is roughly $2.6 million per year. The MTBC contract, over its five-year life, is said to save the district half a million dollars. This is partly because Foley’s proposal asked for 0% above the state reimbursement rate for each year of the five-year contract.
Several at the Aug. 18 meeting questioned the board’s motives in giving Foley the bus contract in May, when he had no buses, drivers, or experience running a bus company.
Director Randy Swank responded that the board made its choice for three reasons –the cost savings, the fact that Foley promised newer buses, and the fact that Foley is “an investor in the business and he’s hiring folks with experience.”
Foley reported that he was sure the Rinehimer drivers would come to work for him. He put ads in out offering Rinehimer drivers bonuses for signing with him and he held several meetings with them, offering them more money.
Rinehimer bus drivers, however, had stated at board meetings repeatedly and in letters to the newspaper that they would not work for the new company. Some noted personal problems they had with Foley when he worked as an accountant for their former bus company.
Foley then had to scramble to find qualified drivers for his new company from other school districts. But, he said, he never thought it would come to this. He was shocked when most Rinehimer drivers refused to work for him.
“We welcomed the Rinehimer bus drivers and we still welcome them,” Foley said. “But we’ll get your students home and to school safely.”
Liz Morales, a driver who’s worked for other companies and has now signed on with Foley, told the crowd that she’s a trainer and she would never put an incompetent driver on the road. She went on that the audience had a “mob mentality.”
“Mr. Foley has worked very hard to get the Rinehimer drivers. He held out for them,” Morales said. “His crime was trying to keep jobs in the community.”
In previous school years, Rinehimer ran 34 buses and seven vans. With nowhere near that many drivers signed on, Foley hired logistics expert Brett Shoemaker to completely restructure the bus routes to accommodate fewer buses and drivers, about 25.
Many questioned how using fewer buses is possible. Shoemaker explained how he formulated the new routes. “There’s an unrealistic fear that these buses are going to be overcrowded, that kids are going to be waiting at the bus stops. That’s just not the case,” he insisted.
Foley agitated the crowd when he stated that he only has 17 drivers. He said he expects a few more to sign on in the next 10 days but, if that doesn’t happen, he has created a contingency plan.
Parents were informed by Superintendent Joseph Gorham that they would receive a letter soon stating their child’s bus stop and pick-up and drop-off times. Parent Kelly Vandenberg expressed her worry about receiving these letters so close to the start of school and went on to ask the board several times for details of the contingency plan and when parents would be informed of it.
“We won’t get into details of a contingency plan right now because it isn’t really necessary yet,” Swank replied, his response met with booing.
“At what point will you tell us the contingency plan? At what point is it too late?” Vandenberg asked. Foley responded that, if some Rinehimer drivers will just work for him, no contingency will be needed.
Vandenberg asked several more times about when information of the plan will be released. Parents who work need to know specifics about bus pick-ups and drop-offs as soon as possible, she said. She received no clear answer.
“How can you justify staying with this company?” Vandenberg then asked the board.
“If the contractor is not prepared to go forward with the contract, I’ll be discussing with the board the legal ramifications and they will be severe,” Attorney Jack Dean said.
By choosing the MTBC, the board saved $400,000 over five years. “I don’t feel that’s worth it,” Vandenberg went on. “When you’re saving money, there’s a time to buy generic and there’s a time not to…. You, as the board, put us in this position.”
“Let’s ask why there are no drivers,” Swank said. “If they don’t want to work for the Crestwood School District, we can’t force them.”
Rinehimer driver Charles Bray came to the podium, pointed at Foley and called him a “downright liar.” He told the board that Foley is breaching his contract by not being prepared for the school year and asked why, for the first time, the names of the bus drivers are not published on the school board agenda. Foley responded that, the names are kept secret because “it seems every time we get five drivers, we lose five drivers.”
“What constitutes a breach of contract?” Bray asked the board.
“If this bus company does not fulfill its obligations, there will be legal ramifications…” Dean repeated. “We will take immediate steps to get kids to school.”
Rinehimer driver Rebecca Miller vowed that she and other Rinehimer drivers will never work for Foley. “Don’t blame us for any inconvenience the board’s decision may cause,” she told the audience, and then asked the board, “How far will the board go to protect your good friend Kevin?”
Former school board member Norb Dotzel, after questioning the RFP process and the legality of accepting Foley’s proposal, said, “I think you’re making a big mistake guys….I think you took me off the transportation board…cause you knew that I’d be screaming like a pig about this.”
Al Melone, Crestwood business manager, described the transportation committee having meetings with Foley and Shoemaker numerous times to ensure the new routes and contingency plans are reliable. “Did we do our due diligence? Absolutely,” he said. “These attacks on this board are absolutely over the line.”
Swank added of the “countless hours” spent working out the new routes. “We feel fully comfortable with the situation,” he stressed. “We’ve done our due diligence and we feel fully comfortable with the current vendor.”
Swank later made the motion to approve the new bus runs, to be published on the district’s website and in local media no later than Aug. 22. The vote was unanimous, minus Director Thomas Harding, who had to unexpectedly leave the meeting before the vote.