The bus contract for the Sauk Prairie School District may go to a new bidder.
Five companies submitted bids for the district’s transportation contract. Bids were due March 2 and a selection committee formally recommended the school district go with the Appleton-based Lamers Bus Company during the board’s Finance Committee meeting April 9, just prior to the school board meeting.
However, the Finance Committee took no official stance on the issue, requesting more time to review the information. The Finance Committee could make a recommendation on April 23; otherwise the board will contemplate action with a vendor during its April 23 board meeting.
Brent Richter, executive director of business services for the district, said the five-year contract the district holds with the Lenz Bus Company is set to expire at the end of the 2017-18 school year. The district was required to provide notice to Lenz by November as to whether or not it would extend the contract or put it out for bid. Richter said the board voted to seek out bids, and provided the administration with guidance for the RFP process.
The Lenz Bus Company, which is based out of Prairie du Sac, has served the district for the past 19 years. Richter confirmed Lenz was one of five companies that submitted bids. Lenz submitted a bid of $1.532 million. The Lamers Bus Company had the next lowest bid at $1.562 million. Badger Bus of Madison’s bid was $1.572 million, followed by Kobussen of Kaukauna at $ 1.596 million and the Milwaukee-based GO Riteway with a bid of 1.8 million.
Richter said in addition to cost, the district looked at eight other criteria when making its recommendation, including the company’s safety plan, communication efforts with the district and families, technology, student behavior management, driver training, bus replacement plan and finally, the company’s ability to implement the required criteria.
The district’s transportation budget for 2016-17 was $1,345,673 and the projected budget for 2017-18 is 1.4 million, said Richter. It is contracted for 25 regular routes and five special education routes.
Several residents spoke in support of retaining the Lenz Bus Company during the April 9 school board meeting. Robert Ochsner said he’s been a bus driver for Lenz for the past 11 years.
“The bus company we currently have is so dedicated,” Ochsner said. “I can’t speak for every driver, but management always encourages us to do our best for the district. I don’t think you can do better than who we have.”
Bill Stehling said the district should consider the financial impact to the Lenz Bus Company if it were to sever ties with it.
Bob Kruse, who said he was a 47-year resident with the district and a retired teacher who now drives busses for Lenz, said its one of the best employers he’s ever had. “If you go with someone cheaper, all the money taxpayers are paying will leave the district,” Kruse said. “And if the contract changes, we could all lose our jobs. But I am more concerned about Sauk money going elsewhere.”
The meeting was the last for longtime member Carol Baier. Baier announced last year she would not be running again; she has represented the town of Merrimac and villages of Merrimac, Caledonia and West Point for 17 years.
Every board member shared sentiments about Baier, praising her for looking out for new board members and putting kids, families and the district first.
“I learned a lot from you,” board president Ryan Jesberger told Baier. “You’ve always been about what’s best for our district. I owe you a lot of gratitude.”
Baier, who was visibly emotional while others spoke, said the decision to leave was hard.
“How do you walk away from this?” Baier said, motioning to her fellow board members and district staff. “My parents always taught me to give back because it makes you a better person. Being on the board taught me so much about education. There’s too many people to thank. Now, it’s time for new endeavors, new projects and spending time with the grandkids.”