SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Wednesday morning, in an 8-0 vote, the Savannah Chatham County School Board approved a resolution to give control back to the district.
They acknowledged MV/Reliant’s request to leave their contract with the district early and gave permission to Superintendent Dr. Thomas Lockamy to negotiate the early termination of the contract, and start looking for people to staff the district run system. He’ll also have authority to order extra equipment necessary to keep the bus system running.
“There just have been a lot of issues with communication,” said School Board President Jolene Byrne. “We’ve tried to negotiate and work this out but ultimately MV and the district have agreed that this is in the best interest of everyone.”
The transition won’t happen immediately though, MV/Reliant said they will finish out the 2015-2016 school year, for a price.
According to a letter from MV/Reliant to SCCPSS on January 21, 2016, if the district agrees to pay back nearly $1.7-million for startup repairs ($1,374,675.02) and cameras ($320,000) that went into the buses, they’d keep providing their services through May 20, 2016.
The district told News 3 they’re verifying those costs, but are slow to agree to one of M/V Reliant’s other requests: waiving the “liquidated damages provisions” in the original MV/Reliant & SCCPSS Contract.
You can think of liquidated damages as penalties for breaches of contract; when developing the contract, both parties agree to certain dollar amounts per breach and then those damages accumulate over time.
According to the school district, in just the first three months of school, M/V Reliant racked up more than $6-million (August: $1,046,000, September: $2,203,000, and October: $2,936,000) in liquidated damages for things like missing pick ups, or late arrivals.
They’re still working to add up how much they’ve accumulated since.
As for the financials of running their own transportation, it could save the district $4 to 7 million per year; but Byrne said because of some startup costs for things like maintenance and transportation software, those savings would likely not be seen in the first year.
The district already has more than 440 buses and staff will be asking to buy 40 more next fiscal year just to keep the fleet up to date.
On February 4th, MV/Reliant sent us this statement about the situation:
MV/Reliant Transportation is very proud of the level of service our company and our employees have provided to SCCPSS and the thousands of students we transport daily in Chatham County. We are equally proud that we were able, in a very short period of time, to bring the District’s bus fleet to a safe and reliable condition. We look forward to working with the SCCPSS staff as they transition to the internal management and operation of the school bus system, and wish them well as they do so.
WSAV was also able to obtain a second letter from MV/Reliant to SCCPSS dated February 10, 2016 requesting Dr. Lockamy schedule an in-person meeting with them to, “negotiate a resolution on the outstanding issues.”
You can read the entire resolution here.