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Flossmoor District 161 school board members Monday approved a transportation contract that is likely to mean savings of nearly $1 million over the next three years.

Craig Doster

By approving the pact with Cook-Illinois /Paige Bus Enterprises, District 161 will reduce its annual transportation costs by $330,000 during the three-year life of the contract, Superintendent Craig Doster told the school board.

Cook-Illinois/Paige submitted a low bid of $780,842.50 per year. Five other companies also submitted three-year bids.

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Earlier this year, District 161 asked for transportation bids after the bus provider, Positive Connections, announced in January that it was opting out of the current three-year contract, which was to run through the 2017-18 school year.

In its Jan. 15 letter to the school district, Positive Connections did not give any reason for not renewing the contract. However, it appears that the company might not have been able to provide services at the rate that was negotiated last year.

Doster said Positive Connections was slated to receive $3,333,058.75 during its three-year contract. That agreement included yearly increases. Cook-Illinois/Paige’s service will cost $2,341,447.50 during the next three years with no annual increases.

The school board last month rejected five bids for the bus contract, including a lowest proposal from Cook-Illinois/Paige, after Doster said there was an apparent misunderstanding over one aspect of the bid specifications – the “pairing” of a single bus and driver on two routes, one for elementary children and the other for junior high students.

Following the March 14 bid rejection, the district sent out bus contract specifications allowing companies to offer proposals for paired routes. Doster said last month that in a competitive bidding environment, companies may wish to submit proposals for paired routes for the same bus and driver that are lower than considering them solely as separate runs for elementary and junior high students.

The six bids that came before the board on Monday all included proposals for paired routes. And the new bids, with provisions for paired routes, came in lower than the earlier proposals. Cook-Illinois/Paige’s bid was $272,251 less than its submittal from earlier this year. Three companies offered bids of less than $800,000 a year.

Cook-Illinois/Paige also provides bus service in Homewood School District 153, Doster said.

Following Monday’s approval of the bus contract, Cook-Illinois/Paige Chief Operating Officer John Benish Jr. said his company is looking forward to its transportation duties in District 161. All the buses are equipped with camera and GPS technology, he said. The company also has technology that will allow parents to track buses so that they know when they will arrive at pick-up and drop-off locations.

Doster said the district will work with Cook-Illinois/Paige so that parents can get the right apps for tracking buses.

District 161 currently has 31 routes for regular education elementary and junior high students. Of those, 28 are paired routes.

School officials said the State of Illinois reimbursed District 161 about $500,000 for transportation costs during the 2014-15 academic year, with the rest coming from local property taxes.

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