Bus service to continue uninterrupted during Trinity contract impasse

March 19, 2013

Bus companies serving Trinity Area School District have offered to continue providing transportation to students in the event the legal impasse with the school board over a transportation contract continues into the next school term.

Schweinebraten and GG&C bus companies notified the district in writing Monday of their decisions to offer Trinity services under the terms of their existing contract after the school board was split 3-3 on a motion Feb. 21 to award the companies a new five-year contract.

“Our goal is to prevent the district, families and students from being placed in the untenable position of having no transportation contractors in place,” Schweinebraten President Billy R. Schweinebraten stated in a letter to Paul Kasunich, Trinity’s superintendent.

Both sides were back in Washington County Court Tuesday asking President Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca for direction. She had put the case on hold after the parties reached a settlement that called for three directors with former ties to GG&C to abstain from voting on the new contract.

GG&C filed a lawsuit against Trinity in December alleging the school board and three of its members ignored conflicts of interest and violated state laws while handling transportation matters after four firms submitted bids for the contract.

O’Dell Seneca appeared frustrated Tuesday after Trinity’s attorney, Chris Furman, suggested she reverse her previous order and permit the three directors, Sandra Clutter, Jenene Hupp and William Clemens, who are former GG&C employees, to vote on the contract.

“You’re asking me to rule on a conflict of interest you all agreed to?” the judge said before asking Furman what happens when a school board cannot agree on a contract.

Furman said the state School Boards Association didn’t have the answer to that question, either.

O’Dell Seneca ordered the parties behind closed doors for a status conference before meeting in her chambers with Furman and GG&C attorney Richard C. Kelly.

After returning to court, she instructed both sides to report back to her after the school board meets in executive session to discuss the case before its next meeting.

At stake is a contract for which GG&C bid $8.67 million, while First Student bid $8.86 million. However, questions were raised about how the bids were calculated and whether GG&C, which has had the contract for more than 50 years, submitted its bid properly.

Schweinebraten would continue to share the contract with GG&C, if it secures a new deal.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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