Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Duval, Busing Contention over 2 Area Contractors Get Half of Business

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Duval, Busing Contention over 2 Area Contractors Get Half of Business

Article excerpt

Byline: Laura Diamond, Times-Union staff writer

Duval County public school administrators and local contractors have reached an agreement to bus students living on the Westside.

The agreement, which allows many of the 108 local contractors who have been busing students for 54 years to continue to do so, is scheduled to go before the School Board Tuesday night.

Before yesterday's deal, the majority of the local contractors were shut out of the $36 million busing program. Now, two of the four companies busing students will be local.

However, giving the latest contract to Westside LLC cuts the school system's estimated savings to about $370,000, Associate Superintendent George Latimer said.

In February, Superintendent John Fryer predicted that the school system would save $3 million from competitively bidding bus contracts. A ruling last year from the city General Counsel's Office required the system to competitively bid the service.

"We are just happy to be back in the game," said Glenn Kollen, a business consultant for the local contractors. "It is a very positive move for all of us and it was a very friendly negotiation process."

The four-month process has been anything but friendly. At meetings, speakers yelled and sometimes threatened board members.

Board members have been pressured by some to award the contracts to local operators who have faithfully bused students. Others encouraged the board to go with national companies because of proposed savings.

First Student, a national company, will bus students in the Arlington/Beaches and Mandarin/Southside communities. Atlantic Express, another national company, will bus students in Northwest Jack- sonville.

F.L. Gelaro Transportation Service Inc., a local company, will bus kids on the Northside. And Westside LLC, which was the school system's last option, will serve the Westside. …

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