The school board has awarded the five-year busing contract to an off-island company based in Regina, chair Andreas Uttendorfer has confirmed.
The board chose First Bus Canada Ltd. over Port Clements-based O’Brien Road and Bridge Maintenance Ltd. because its bid was approximately $23,000 a year cheaper, Mr. Uttendorfer said.
“It’s substantially less,” he said. “The services offered by First Bus are equivalent to what O’Brien was offering usÂ… It’s very tough, we definitely would like to hire locally, no doubt about it.”
However, given this year’s budget squeeze, he said, the public would not be happy about the board spending more than it had to on the bus contract.
The school board met to discuss the contract last Wednesday (April 7) after O’Brien appealed, but decided that the contract will definitely go to First Bus Canada.
Mr. Uttendorfer said First Bus has school bus contracts all over North America, and that the district did several background checks on the company.
The school bus routes will remain exactly the same as they are now, which means that Port parents who asked the board earlier this year to consider a bus route between Port and Tlell (to allow their children to attend Queen Charlotte Secondary) will not get their wish.
“We would dearly like to help those parents out,” Mr. Uttendorfer said. “But we are under tremendous pressure financially.”
Gloria O’Brien, owner of O’Brien Road and Bridge, said she was “truly saddened” to lose the contract, which employs seven people. Ms O’Brien said she was also shocked by the fact that she learned about the school board decision from the Observer. As of Tuesday, she had not heard from her local trustee, from Mr. Uttendorfer, or from anyone in the school board office.
“I am truly saddened to hear that we have lost our contract to a large American company with a corporate office in Regina,” she said. “My first thoughts are with my employees and my community for the loss of another seven jobs.”
An internet check on “First Bus Canada” brought the Observer to the site for a huge American company with headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio. First America says it transports more than a million students to and from school every day.
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