Second Montville bus contract vote canceled

Montville — A meeting Monday night in which the Board of Education was expected to take a second vote on a proposed contract with a private busing company was canceled, further prolonging the weeks of uncertainty that have surrounded the future of Montville's town-run bus system.

The district announced the cancellation, due to the hospitalization of one of the school board members, on Monday morning. The school board’s nine members were expected to reconsider a decision on the proposed contract with Illinois-based Durham School Services, which Superintendent Brian Levesque has said would save the district money and let it join most of the state’s other school districts in outsourcing its busing.

The board voted 4-3 on May 16 not to hire Durham to take over the town-run busing system.

The town’s bus drivers and mechanics, worried they would lose the health insurance benefits they receive under the union contract they negotiated with the school board, vocally opposed the contract, citing safety concerns and saying there were savings to be found without outsourcing the bus garage.

But after at least one board member told board chairman Robert Mitchell they wished to change their vote — Town Council members warned that without the projected savings from the contract they would need to make cuts to the school budget — Mitchell scheduled a special meeting on Monday to allow the board members to vote again.

It was not immediately clear which board member was ill or whether the special meeting would be rescheduled. The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for June 20.

Keith Galloway, Durham's director of business development, said Monday that he is still hopeful the school board will reverse its May decision. 

He said the company is still interested in signing a contract with the town if the school board approves it. If the board votes in favor of the five-year contract on June 20, he said, Durham would meet with Montville's drivers and could be prepared to oversee busing for students participating in summer programs.

"We're certainly interested, and really want the school board to award the contract," he said. "We're ready for it ... even though the clock is ticking, so to speak."

Galloway said he had not authorized a listing published on the jobs website indeed.com calling for bus drivers to work for Durham in Montville. A Durham employee in the recruiting department was not aware that the school board had not approved the contract, he said, and "jumped the gun." The listing has been rescinded.

The proposed contract with Durham would require the company to offer jobs to all the drivers Montville now employs. Galloway acknowledged Monday that the company would not provide the same level of health insurance coverage in the contract it would negotiate with the Teamsters Local 493 union chapter, but said they would offer benefits competitive with the other transportation companies that run bus systems in other local districts.

m.shanahan@theday.com

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