NAUGATUCK — The Board of Education on Thursday extended its contract with Student Transportation of America without soliciting bids from other school bus companies.
The board voted to suspend its own bidding rules, which its policy manual allows with a majority vote. The renewed five-year contract was then unanimously approved.
The current contract, which has the school board paying about $2.5 million for the company to operate more than 40 buses, expires next month.
The new contract would pay STA 2 percent more each year, until the bus company makes about $2.8 million in the 2017-18 school year. STA will install global positioning systems on all its buses and the average fleet age will not exceed seven years. Ron Tymula will stay on as operations manager of STA’s bus depot on South Main Street, and the board will have a say in his replacement if he leaves voluntarily.
Compared to the current contract, which was increasing by 3 percent annually, the renewed contract will save a minimum of $296,000.
Various problems between the board and the bus company came to a head two years ago when parents complained of late buses and unreachable dispatchers. A year earlier, the board discovered that required bus safety drills were not being conducted. The company has also been fined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for allowing buses to idle too long.
Phil Zembruski, an involved parent who lives on Alma Street, referenced the past conflicts Thursday to the school board.
“I was wondering why we were going to suspend that and award them the contract without going to bid if we’ve had such issues with them in the past,” Zembruski said.
Board member James Jordan, who has been involved in the transportation subcommittee, said Tymula had turned the company’s operations around. Jordan said the finance subcommittee, of which he is chairman, recommended waiving the bidding process after analyzing various proposals.
“There’s been shown steady progression to where the bus company seems very stable right now,” Jordan said.