Bus contractors file bid protest
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.