Board Talks Buses, Adopts Budget

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Hendrickson Bus Corporation may or may not continue to provide transportation within the Glen Cove City School District, depending on a decision to be made by the Glen Cove Board of Education, after hearing presentations at the April 21 board meeting. A large crowd of concerned residents filled the Deasy Elementary School gymnasium at last week’s meeting, where Hendrickson and Montauk Bus both gave presentations on transportation options for the district.

The district sent out Request for Proposals (RFPs) earlier this year and narrowed it down to the two companies.

Brendan Clifford of Hendrickson gave some information on his company, which has served the district for the past 50 years. He went over the company’s safety and reliability record, driver evaluations, the GPS systems equipped in the vehicles and how they handle break downs. The bus yard is in Bayville, and he said they employ 43 Glen Cove residents, many of whom were in attendance and vocal in support of their employer.

Greg Mensch presented on behalf of his company, Montauk Bus, also going over the safety record, maintenance and emergency procedures and history of this family-owned company. The company currently has bus yards in Ronkonkoma, Hampton Bays and Center Moriches, and Mensch said they would buy or rent property locally if awarded the contract.

Montauk also tried to appeal to local drivers, saying that they welcome the “experience and knowledge” of the area they could provide and that they would be “open” to salary discussions.

Victoria Galante, assistant superintendent for business, went over some of the numbers on the cost differences between the two companies, which varies depending on the length of the contract and whether or not the district buys its own fuel.

After the two companies presented and left the meeting, the floor was open for public comment.

“The elephant in the room is that Montauk Bus does not have property in Glen Cove,” said Ida McQuair, former school board president. She cited the requirement for transportation companies to have everything in place, from the lot to the dispatchers to on-site fuel and security, prior to the new school year. “It is impossible for this company to accomplish this by the end of July.”

Her husband, City Attorney Charles McQuair, spoke next.

“This company really isn’t a responsible bidder,” he said, then told the board the company had a class action lawsuit filed against them on Dec. 9, 2014.

“Why are we even considering balancing the safety of our children with a couple of dollars?” said another resident.

Several people questioned the board as to the reasoning behind the RFP and others said they thought it was good to see the district trying to get another option.

“It’s stacked against Montauk,” said Jeffrey Unger. “I understand the reason for the bid is to keep it competitive, but without property to offer them, we’re stuck. Maybe in the future the district can work with the city to find property.”

“One of my biggest pet peeves has always been that nobody bids on our busing because there’s no place to park,” said Board President Richard Maccarone. “This time, a second company came in, so we had this public meeting. If there’s no one to bid against them, they set the price.”

During the discussion, the fact that the board does not have a policy on requiring students to wear seatbelts came up; the board agreed to put it on the agenda for an upcoming meeting.

Finally, the board voted to adopt a $82,486,118 budget for the 2015-16, which represents a 4 percent budget increase and a 2.04 percent tax levy increase. Several presentations will take place at upcoming PTA meetings in the district and the final budget hearing will be on May 11. A Meet the Candidates night will be held on May 4 at 7 p.m. at the middle school.

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