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The board caused an uproar in May when it hired accountant Foley and his newly-created Mountaintop Bus Company, creating a five-year contract in excess of $10 million. With the district’s transportation cost at roughly $2.6 million per year including basic transportation at $1.9 million and another $700,000 for athletic and extracurricular bus services, the contract with the new company would have saved the district half a million dollars in total.
While Henry submitted a RFP for the transportation contract, he asked for a 3-percent increase over the state’s reimbursement rate for the first three years of the contract and a 5-percent increase for the last two. Foley had asked for no increase. The cost savings and Foley’s promise of new buses is what caused the board to create the contract with Foley, rather than Henry, board members said.
Rinehimer’s new contract, awarded on Aug. 25, gives Henry a 3-percent increase in the reimbursement rate over all five years, making it slightly less than what he originally asked for. Per the new contract, Henry will also provide some newer buses, 10 now, and about seven more by January of 2017.
When Foley was awarded the contract earlier this summer, Rinehimer drivers continuously vowed that they would remain loyal to their boss, Henry, and never work for Foley’s company.
At the Aug. 18 school board meeting, Foley admitted that, while he had a fleet of new buses, he only had 17 drivers. He needed a minimum of 25 and, to run the same bus routes that Rinehimer had for years, he needed 34. He stated he thought the Rinehimer drivers, being offered more money, would eventually agree to work for him.
A parade of frustrated parents spoke at that meeting, asking the board how the operation will be successful and what the district will do if it’s not. Board members didn’t give clear answers, only noting that a contingency plan was in place, and that they were confident in Foley and his operation. The vote was then unanimous to approve Foley’s bus runs –dramatically different than previous years, but never released to the media or public.
At the end of the day of Aug. 22, when the bus runs were supposed to be released, it was announced that Foley and the Crestwood School Board had a “mutual agreement” to pull out of the contract, due to Foley’s inability to get enough qualified drivers. It was reported he actually lost a few of the 17 drivers he had the previous week.
On Aug. 25, Henry related that he was always confident that his company would win the Crestwood contract back. “I want to thank the drivers and the people of Mountain Top that stood behind them,” he said. “We look forward to serving the area. I will provide the best service possible to the residents of Mountain Top.”
While Foley didn’t attend the Aug. 25 meeting, Henry couldn’t make his way out of the building without being stopped numerous times and offered congratulations by members of the public, some hugging him and the fellow bus drivers he accompanied. When asked for comment,
Director Randy Swank, who heads the board’s transportation committee and had continuously expressed his confidence in Foley’s operation, stated, “I’m glad the situation has been resolved. We have a provider under contract that the district feels comfortable with. We look forward to beginning the school year and moving on.”
Of the additional $60,000 per year that the Rinehimer transportation contract will cost the district, Swank reported that it will come from the district’s fund balance this year and, in the coming years, will have to be budgeted. This may come by way of program cuts next year, but that will be addressed when the budget is prepared next spring, he said.
It is unclear what Foley will do about the new or close-to-new buses that he purchased for his operation, but Henry related that he’d like to “try to help him out” by possibly purchasing them for Rinehimer.
Henry went on of the bus drivers that remained loyal to his company, “Those drivers are a very special group. They said they were going to do something and they stood by what they said. I’ll do everything I can to repay them for honoring their word.”