3 school bus services submit proposals for new Concordia Parish contract

Published 6:00 am Saturday, March 18, 2023

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VIDALIA, La. — Three school bus companies, including the currently contracted Durham School Services, are bidding for the Concordia Parish School Board’s bus contract.

The current contract expires on July 3, and board members said they will not renew the existing agreement with Durham. Both the rising cost and the age of the buses in use have prompted the district to go in a new direction, officials said.

Tom O’Neal, the school board’s director of business affairs, said the cost to run school buses with Durham increased to approximately $1.4 million this fiscal year from approximately $1.32 million last year and that the rate fluctuates from year to year.

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Durham School Services responded to the school board’s Request for Proposals with a new contract proposal with a rate of $299.95 per bus route. The total contract cost for one year would be $1,403,766.

“My time here working with Concordia Parish has been an absolute blast and I look forward to possibly continuing that relationship,” Wesley Smith, Durham School Services general manager said. “If not, business is business. I have been working diligently with the superintendent and you all to push the vision that you all have for the students in Concordia Parish.”

Eco Ride submitted an RFP at a rate of $357.67 per route. The total contract cost is $1,673,880.86 annually.

“We’ve been providing services to various school districts in the region,” Ryan Johnson, Vice President of Eco Ride, said. “… (We’re) confident with newer technology, a newer fleet with newer vehicles but that is part of the piece of transportation. The other part is service, reliability and being part of the community. For us at Eco Ride, it’s important for us not just to be a provider but to be a partner. One that listens understands and works with the community to ensure that at the end of the day, we’re doing what it takes to get the kids to and from school safely, reliably and on time. … We value relationships and are focused on providing that best in class that truly focuses on what the district is looking for from a service standpoint and from a relationship standpoint.”

The last RFP came from Jones Student Transportation at a rate of $285 per route and a total cost of $1,487,700 annually. Jones Student Transportation did not have a spokesperson present at the meeting.

O’Neal said the RFPs would be evaluated on a five-point scale that includes cost, the longevity of the company, referrals and recommendations, overall services being offered, and the equipment proposed and the wait time for receiving new equipment if the board requests it.

All of the proposals were taken under advisement during Thursday’s board meeting.

In other matters, the board enlisted Bryant Hammett & Associates engineering services for resurfacing the Ferriday and Vidalia High School football fields and to assess a drainage issue around the new Monterey High School gymnasium.

Project Supervisor Marco Gonzales with Volkert Inc. previously discussed the drainage problem at Monterey High School with the school board, saying the landscape and the new building’s close proximity to the high school create a drainage problem in the alley between the buildings that could potentially cause flooding.

It’s estimated resodding the football fields with natural grass would cost around $250,000. There is no cost for the engineer’s assessment of the drainage problem around Monterey High School, officials said.