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Single bus bid puzzles board

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Work session set to find out what's the matter

Only one company returned bids for school buses even though three companies were asked to submit them, the Wilson County School Board was told Monday night by Jerry Partlow, district director of transportation, at a special-called meeting.

When both Zone 3 Board Member Don Weathers and Zone 1 Board Member Wayne McNeese asked why only one company submitted a bid, Partlow said he isn't sure but maybe the others couldn't meet the specifications for the new buses.

McNeese said he seemed to recall another time when this had happened and Weathers agreed, saying he thinks it was during a previous administration.

'Try for better price'

"We owe it to the people of the county to know why two companies didn't bid," Weathers said. "We might be able to get a better bus for a lower price."

Board Chair and Zone 5 Member Larry Tomlinson said he's tired of having companies act like the school system is setting specs to keep them out of the bidding.

"We are doing what is legal," he said, pointing out that the system uses the specs that state and federal laws require.

Tomlinson suggested that the companies be contacted and asked to explain what problems they had with bidding. "And we don't want to deal with a sales representative," he added. "We need to go to the head of the stream and find out what the problem is."

Dec. 22 deadline

When board members asked what the timeline is on the bidding, Partlow said the company has to have approval by Dec. 22 to guarantee delivery by July.

He added that the system also needs more drivers to eliminate overcrowded buses and long routes.

And when Tomlinson asked Partlow if he could use the $1.2 million for buses in the budget to hire more drivers, he said he wouldn't mind doing that, either.

McNeese said he didn't like bus bids coming up at a called meeting with the decision needed right away, especially with only one bidder.

"We've got to vote tonight and with only one bid?" he asked.

'Invite them in'

Zone 2 Board Member Bill Robinson also said he didn't understand why this was being heard at a special-called meeting, and asked the board to call for a work session.

"We need to be better educated on this," he said. "I don't see why we can't invite the bidders to come talk to us."

In the end, that's exactly what the board voted to do on a motion by Weathers, seconded by McNeese. The members agreed unanimously to invite all three potential bidders to attend a work session at 4 p.m. on Jan. 4 to discuss any problems they have with the bidding process.

The board members also voted unanimously to hold their final decision on whether to accept the single bid that was submitted, or to reject it and rebid the buses, until the Jan. 4 regular meeting after the newly scheduled work session.

Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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Tags: 
bids, budget, bus, buses, school bus, Wilson County School Board, Wilson County Schools
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