New London deal preps Oberlin buses for school year

Correction: This story originally indicated annual Oberlin Schools fleet maintenance costs have been above $1 million. This was a typo and should have, as reported in previous stories, shown that bus costs have been above $100,000 per year. The News-Tribune regrets and apologizes for the error.

School buses have all passed inspection as Oberlin’s first day of school approaches.

Following months of contention over the aging fleet, the New London Schools were tapped to provide maintenance of the buses on a one-year contract.

Four Oberlin buses were sent to New London on July 31. Two needed minor repairs, but all passed Ohio State Highway Patrol inspection, said transportation director Dan Bailey.

Bus 1 had a hole in the underbelly near the left rear wheel and missing screws in the aisle. The wheels on bus 10 needed air and bolts on one of the seats needed reinforced.

Oberlin Schools superintendent David Hall said all buses are in tip-top shape for the first day of school on Wednesday, Aug. 23.

All that’s missing are drivers to get behind the wheel. Five extra drivers are needed for transportation to run smoothly, Hall said.

Oberlin’s bus maintenance costs raised the ire of parents this spring and early summer. The board of education voted in May to stop transportation for local students attending Lake Ridge Academy in North Ridgeville, saying the change would save $30,000 per year.

To parents, the bulk of spending wasn’t due to transportation, but maintenance.

Costs to keep the fleet running jumped from $47,107 to $135,453 when the school board hired Countryview Services of Wakeman, and the numbers have remained above $100,000 every year since.

The contract with Countryview expired in July, and Hall said he would consider a different vendor.

The argument is that New London’s contract could drive down prices for both districts. The Huron County district also has a shared service agreement with Monroeville, which has seen reduced costs as a result.

New London will charge Oberlin $45 per hour for regular maintenance time and $60 per hour for overtime work.

The administrative fee is 4.5 percent and covers creating work orders, detailed quarterly billing, and work allocation. The partnership is also expected to save money on parts for the three districts.

Hall also looked into partnership with the Clearview and Keystone schools, which have not tried shared services. He chose New London because of its experience.

Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter.

By Laurie Hamame