Bus con­trac­tors file bid protest

Kent County News - - FRONT PAGE - By DANIEL DIVILIO ddivilio@thekent­coun­tynews.com

ROCK HALL — Lo­cal bus con­trac­tors are protest­ing the ri­val bid­der for Kent County Pub­lic Schools’ stu­dent trans­porta­tion con­tract.

The Kent County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion is fac­ing a bud­getary short­fall in the up­com­ing fis­cal year that has mem­bers look­ing to close two el­e­men­tary schools. Should that school con­sol­i­da­tion plan go through, the board still faces a deficit of about $300,000.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Karen Couch hopes to save ad­di­tional money on the trans­porta­tion con­tract. A re­quest for pro­pos­als was is­sued and the two bids re­ceived were opened Feb. 6.

The school board plans to hold a pub­lic hear­ing on the bids, though no date has been set. Ini­tial plans to dis­cuss the bids at Mon­day’s board meet­ing were scut­tled due to the lo­cal con­trac­tors’ protest.

“The board will hear this mat­ter prior to mak­ing the award,” Couch said Mon­day night. “As soon as we have more in­for­ma­tion we will note that.”

Kent County Bus Con­trac­tors LLC, which has held the trans­porta­tion con­tract since 1997, bid about $1.8 mil­lion. Re­li­able Trans­porta­tion, cur

rently a bus con­trac­tor for Bal­ti­more City and Bal­ti­more County pub­lic schools, bid $1.49 mil­lion.

Those prices cover tak­ing chil­dren to and from school for 180 days of in­struc­tion. Sports, field trips, sum­mer school and other trans­porta­tion needs are not part of ei

ther base bids. Re­li­able’s bid seeks a 2 per

cent an­nual in­crease dur­ing a four-year term. That would in­crease base trans­porta­tion costs from $1.49 mil­lion to nearly $1.58 mil­lion. The Kent County con­trac­tors did not list any such in­crease.

Over the last three fis­cal years, the district has spent an­nu­ally be­tween $1.59 mil

lion and $1.63 mil­lion for the base­line stu­dent trans­porta­tion.

On Feb. 10, the Kent County Bus Con­trac­tors filed a protest against Re­li­able’s bids, say­ing that the com­pany can­not be deemed a re­spon­si­ble or re­spon­sive bid­der for a num­ber of rea­sons.

The con­cerns raised by the lo­cal con­trac­tors fo­cus on how Bal­ti­more-based Re­li­able can demon­strate that it will be fully pre­pared by Au­gust to pro­vide 24 buses and cer­ti­fied driv­ers in Kent County.

“It is not ac­cept­able to say that Re­li­able has the abil­ity or will­ing­ness to ac­quire prop­erty in or near Kent County with any no ( sic) doc­u­men­ta­tion, de­tail, or sup­port, let alone abil­ity to do so,” the bid protest states.

A mes­sage left with Re­li­able was not re­turned as of press time Wed­nes­day.

The Kent County Bus Con­trac­tors state that the school board can dis­qual­ify Re­li­able, re­ject both bids, ne­go­ti­ate a con­trac­tor di­rectly with the lo­cal con­trac­tors or re­bid the con­tract.

Speak­ing at Mon­day’s school board meet­ing, Couch said bid­ders were re­quired to show ap­proval of a per­for­mance bond, as re­quired in the RFP. She said surety or in­sur­ance com­pa­nies is­sue per

for­mance bonds af­ter eval­u­at­ing a com­pany’s level of risk, abil­ity to meet obli­ga­tions and ca­pa­bil­ity to per­form the con­tracted ser­vices.

“Per­for­mance bond is re­quired. That was put in there for a pur­pose. It is to pro­vide a mon­e­tary guar­an­tee that the con­trac­tor — who­ever the con­trac­tor might be — has the abil­ity to pro­vide the ser

vices as out­lined in the RFP,” Couch said.

In its bid, Re­li­able stated it would like to hire lo­cal driv­ers and pur­chase prop­erty in or near Kent County to es­tab­lish a base of op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing a main­te­nance depart­ment.

“Re­li­able is well suited for this con­tract and will pro­vide the high­est level of per­for­mance and ser­vice to the fam­i­lies of Kent County. We look for­ward to work­ing as a part­ner with Kent County Pub­lic Schools, it(s) par­ents, and chil­dren,” the Re­li­able bid states.

Couch said the district will main­tain con­trol and over­sight in the ap­proval of bus driv­ers. She said the district also will main­tain driv­ers’ records.

“It was specif­i­cally noted in the RFP that the con­trac­tor can be ter­mi­nated at any time for any vi­o­la­tion of any of the pro­vi­sions within the RFP,” Couch said.

The Kent County Bus Con­trac­tors bid protest also ques­tions Re­li­able’s es­ti­mates on fuel and main­te­nance costs.

“Since its num­bers are all wrong, it is hard to imag­ine how Re­li­able could have prop­erly ac­counted for project man­age­ment, project su­per­vi­sion, cost of fa­cil­i­ties in Kent County, and the cost of main­te­nance,” the lo­cal con­trac­tors state.

The Kent County Bus Con­trac­tors said the school district is tak­ing a huge risk if it awards a con­tract to a com

pany it does not know.

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