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BOLD ends its long relationship with Palmer Bus Service

BIRD ISLAND -- BOLD school board members ratified a new transportation agreement with Positive Connections of Savage at their meeting on Monday. The action formally ends a 10-year relationship with Palmer Bus Service of Mankato.

Positive Connections has been transporting students for BOLD schools since Nov. 27, when school board members agreed to negotiate a contract with the company.

The relationship between the school district and Palmer Bus Service became troubled at the start of this school year. Eleven bus drivers employed by Palmer refused to go to work Sept. 13 due to a conflict with their employer.

BOLD Superintendent Mike Funk said the matter led board members to put the district's transportation contract up for review. Board members awarded the contract to Positive Connections for a number of reasons, starting with costs, he said. Last year the district expended $590,000 for bus service. This year it is projecting expenses of $582,000 with the new company.

One area where savings are expected is in the fuel clause offered by the company. Under the new agreement, the district and Positive Connections will split the cost of fuel when it is above $2.30 per gallon. Palmer Bus Service offered a contract that would have required the district to split the costs for fuel whenever it was above $1.29 per gallon.

No less important, the district asked that the transportation provider use buses that are less than 10 years old for the improved safety features they offer. Funk said that 90 percent of the buses being used by Positive Connections are less than two years old. Palmer Bus Service did not match Positive Connections in the commitment to a newer-model fleet.

Positive Connections has also indicated it will offer either 12 or 13 bus routes, as compared to the 11 routes provided by Palmer Bus.

Funk said the decision to change transportation providers was difficult, since Palmer Bus Service had a 10-year history with the district and was considered a local company.

The superintendent said the new company has hired many of the bus drivers that formerly worked for Palmer Bus Service, including a number of those who had refused to go to work last September due to the conflict in the company.