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Shelton BOE goes with cheapest propane bidder

September 27, 2018

SHELTON — With somewhat of a “What would the Board of Aldermen Do” mind set, the city school board went with the low bidder for propane bus fuel at a meeting on Wednesday.

In voting to approve a three-year, $260,240-a-year contract to Santa Energy, the board expressed uncertainty with the city’s thoughts on the matter

“We asked, but did not get an answer (from the city),” Ed Drapp, the school district’s finance director told the board.

The city and school board have locked horns over school buses for nearly a year. The city owns a fleet of propane-fueled school buses and expected to take over the operation when a current school transportation contract expired at the end of the last school year. The board, however, went with another firm claiming the city refused to offer assurance it could do the job. The city sued the board and refused to let the new company use its buses until a court-led settlement let to a one year compromise.

Under the compromise, Durham School Services is running the operation this year, using city buses, but the district must pay for the fuel. In the past the city and district shared the cost. Next year, the city plans to run transportation, at what Mayor Mark Lauretti has said repeatedly will cost the school district no more than it does now. Still, however, he said the district will pay for the fuel going forward.

“When the city takes over the district will have to pay for fuel just like now,” Lauretti said late last month.

Drapp said last year, it cost $1.18 a gallon for propane fuel. This year, the six bids that came in ranged from $1.30 to $1.62 a gallon. The district runs through about 200,000 gallons a year to fuel 59 school buses.

The estimated $260,240 it would cost per year by taking Santa Energy’s three-year bid is somewhat lower than the $288,000 the district estimated it would have to spend on propane this year.

The cost would go down another $5,200 per year, if the city were to install larger propane storage tanks to cut down on delivery cost.

Drapp said he does not know if the city is of a mind to do that.

“We tried to discuss that (with the city)and did not get a decision,” Drapp said. “There was no response.”

Board Chairman Mark Holden said he knows what he wants.

“I don’t want to pay more,” Holden said. “I think we should go for the best deal and hope the city will too.”

Other board members, however, questioned what happens if the city sells its school buses.

They also were leery about accepting a $650 donation from Santa Energy to purchase running shorts and shirts for the Shelton High girls cross country team.

“I am wondering if it is a conflict of interest,” Kathleen Yolish, a board member said.

Dave Gioiello, another board member, expressed the same concern, suggesting it gives the impression there is a pay to play element in school board contracts.

“Why not ask the city Board of Ethics for guidance,” Gioiello suggested.

A majority of the board agree to do so, but at the same time accepted the donation. They also referred the matter to its own policy committee.

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