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Sauk Prairie School District to bring in new bus company

 

May 3, 2018



The Sauk Prairie School District will be changing its transportation provider after receiving nearly 20 years of service from a local bus company.

The School board approved, at a 4-3 vote, to move forward with Lamers Bus Company for the 2018-2023 transportation services contract at its April 23 meeting. The board made the decision after recommendations to select Lamers came from a District Selection Committee and the Finance & Personnel Committee.

Board president Ryan Jesberger and board members Richard Judge, Steven Sprecher and Richard Talmage voted for the motion to approve the contract with Lamers. Board members Dennis Virta, Mary Ann Marx, and newly elected member James Isaacson voted against.

Emotions were high in the room filled with residents who attended the meeting to hear the board’s decision. Lenz Bus Company, a family-owned business in Prairie du Sac, has served the district for 19 years. Owner Treavor Lenz attended the board meeting with his family. Prior to the decision, he spoke to the board and those in attendance. He said the contract he held with the district in the past included cost considerations in creating a working relationship between the company and district.

“I’ve been around Sauk Prairie for 19 years, executing what I felt would be in the best interest for the district, paying attention along the way to the cost considerations that were in front of all of us,” Lenz said.

“If there are things that don’t exist in the transportation world for Sauk Prairie right now, I fully feel that it is due not to, ‘I won’t do them,’ but that they just haven’t been done or afforded.”

“I enjoy serving Sauk, I would like to get the chance to continue to do so,” he added.

Some of the members on the selection committee spoke on their recommendation. Member Noelle Sapiro, director of special education and student services in the district, said their job was to look at it from the lens of what kids need. While she said the safety aspect is critical, the bus driver training was also a major factor.

“We’re also looking for a mind-set around working with children and training is always going to be helpful, but that training needs to have a component of professional development that’s ongoing, embedded and that involves some coaching and some feedback and you know, that’s just not something that happens overnight,” Sapiro said.

Also prior to the vote, several residents, some who are bus drivers for Lenz Bus Company, spoke in favor of keeping the company as the transportation provider for the district.

“I think in the long-run we’ll be much better off to keep what we have, because you can’t replace it, that’s the point,” Robert Ochsner said. “With all my heart, I don’t think you can do better.”

Lifelong resident Joyce Frey said she feels the district has a responsibility to tax payers and should be respectful of a business that has provided quality service to students for 19 years.

“I don’t know when this community has turned its back on our neighbors like this,” Frey said. “I just do not understand how something like this can take place behind closed doors without an open ear and a respectful heart.”

Virta spoke strongly in favor for the district to work with Lenz. In considering his decision as a School board member, he took time to meet with Treavor Lenz, learn about the scope of his business, meet drivers and hear families’ concerns. He also spent time riding on a bus during the morning and afternoon routes.

“Lenz Bus Company has worked with the district to provide the lowest cost possible to our community so as not to be a burden on our district,” Virta said.

He thanked Lenz for the ways he has served and sacrificed for the community.

“I know what that’s all about and I also know the effects of that kind of sacrifice,” Virta said. “It means the things you might have purchased do not get purchased, it means that the training you might have gone to, you don’t go to.”

“Let’s work with Lenz, let’s figure out the route we need to take, just like he figures out the route for all of our kids,” he added.

Superintendent Cliff Thompson and Brent Richter, the district’s executive director of business services, took time to explain the district’s process leading up to the board meeting. The contract with the Lenz company was established in 2013 and expires at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. The School board considered options and provided guidance to the administration to seek bids for the 2018-2023 school years. Five companies submitted bids including Lenz Bus Company with the lowest bid at $1,532,465 and Lamers Bus Company at $1,562,046.

Following the Request For Proposal (RFP) process, the district selection committee, comprised of five staff members and one School board member, gave a presentation and recommended selecting Lamers Bus Company at a combined meeting of the Policy Committee and Finance & Personnel Committee on April 9.  The Finance & Personnel Committee also recommended Lamers at its April 23 meeting.

During the selection committee’s process, the interviews narrowed it down to three vendors: Lamers, Kobussen Buses and Lenz. In the scoring, Lamers and Kobussen came out as the top two vendors in evaluating new facilities, plans for Sauk Prairie, technology in action, implementation and transition plans, training of bus drivers and addressing current issues, including a driver shortage.

Jesberger pointed out Lamers and Kobussen had more than double the score of Lenz in the selection committee’s rankings in bid summaries.

Thompson spoke about the importance in trusting the selection committee and their work while noting the significance and sensitivity of the decision. He asked the board to consider the option to approve Lenz for a one year contract for 2018-19 and Lamers for a contract 2019-2024 to allow the opportunity for Lenz to serve out and transition the business.

Before the motion was passed to approve Lamers Bus Company for the 2018-2023 transportation services contract, Jesberger noted there is a unanimous recommendation from two committees to select Lamers and the scores reflect the company has a plan for crisis and emergency management.

“Within those scores is a focus on the safety of the students in this district, and I’m not saying that Lenz hasn’t focused on that as well, but if we’re looking at how we arrived at those scores, that’s a huge component of it, and to me I think it’s prudent for us, not only for the responsibility to the taxpayers and the district, but also to the safety of the kids in the district, that we go with the best possible option,” Jesberger said.

 
 

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