SCHOOL COMMITTEE NEWS: Wilmington To Stick With North Reading Transportation As School Bus Provider; Backs Town Meeting Warrant Article

WILMINGTON, MA — At its latest meeting, the Wilmington School Committee unanimously approved a 3-year contract with North Reading Transportation to continue as its school bus provider.  The contract is anticipated to cost $1.110 million in FY19 (3.2% increase), $1.157 million in FY20 (4.2% increase), and $1.191 in FY21 (3.0% increase).

Despite sending the bid to nine potential bidders and publicizing it in the Lowell Sun, the Goods and Services Bulletin, and the state’s portal for bid advertisements, the district only received one bid — North Reading Transportation, its current provider. This, according to Interim Director of Finance and Administration Frank Antonelli, is becoming commonplace, as bus companies are consolidating at a rapid pace.

Following the state’s procurement laws, Wilmington contacted the President of North Reading Transportation and was able to negotiate the FY19 daily cost per bus down by $5, resulting in a savings of $14,400.

“North Reading Transportation has been great to Wilmington,” noted Interim Superintendent Paul Ruggiero. “They’ve been good to work with.”

Wilmington’s daily rate for FY19 — $338.00 — remains competitive with districts in the area, including Billerica ($355.00), North Reading ($330.00), Tewksbury ($345.00), and Wakefield ($330.00).  It was also pointed out that Wilmington is one of the few suburban districts that don’t charge any sort of bus fee.

Per the advice of Antonelli, the Wilmington School Committee also unanimously agreed to ask the Selectmen to place an article on the Annual Town Meeting warrant that would permit the School Committee to award a student transportation contract for three years, with an option to renew the contract in the fourth and fifth years.

Currently, the Wilmington School Committee can only award school bus contracts on a three-year basis, with no option to renew in subsequent years, which has hurt the district.

“By authorizing an award of a three-year contract with an option to renew it in the fourth and fifth years, the Town would be permitting the School Department to determine at the end of three years whether it would be most advantageous to exercise the option or to undertake a new procurement,” explained Antonelli. “At the end of three years, the School Department would make a reasonable investigation to establish that the prices that would be paid after excising the option are reasonable under current market conditions.”

Antonelli noted that this is allowed on Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 30B, section 12, which allows a procurement officer to award a contract for a term exceeding three years, including any renewal, extension or option, if a majority vote of the appropriating body (Town Meeting voters in Wilmington) authorizes such a contract.

“The reason for placing this warrant article at the Annual Town Meeting is that there would have been a savings of approximately $24,900 if we were able to exercise two option years in the current contract and it is possible that future savings could be realized by the School Department in FY2022 and FY2023.

Several of the school districts Antonelli worked has successfully pushed for this change, including Billerica back in 2005.

If the Town Manager and Selectmen agree to place an article on the warrant, and the article is approved at Town Meeting, the School Committee will have the ability to extend its new contract with North Reading Transportation at the end of its third and fourth years, potentially realizing some savings.

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