AMA ESD renews contract with TBTA

By TYLER WINOWIECKI

News Staff Writer

ALPENA — The Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District renewed its busing services with the Thunder Bay Transportation Authority after exploring other options and addressed previous issues.

Superintendent Brian Wilmot told the board during its last meeting that if the different areas of concern were worked out he would present a recommendation. During Thursday’s meeting Wilmot recommended approving a contract with TBTA for just over a one year duration.

A major concern involved Andrew Gordon Bartz who over a two-year period sexually molested more than 10 students while serving as a bus aide for Prell’s Service, a third party contractor for TBTA. Bartz recently was sentenced to a maximum of 30 years in prison.

“This has been a big deal for our district for many months and over the course of the last several months we’ve been in discussions with TBTA about the contract and our concerns about the current arrangement,” Wilmot said.

Wilmot said through the changes made at TBTA the relationship will be better, which he said was due to TBTA moving away from its partnership with Prell Services and becoming an independent entity on July 1. The agency is in the process of hiring new staff and building a new bus facility in Alpena Township and will no longer be working with Prell’s Service as of June, according to TBTA officials.

The AMA ESD looked at other companies to provide the service but after addressing issues such as student safety Wilmot was satisfied with the changes. In March Wilmot and Pied Piper Principal Scott Reynolds reached out to Dean Transportation to inquire about busing services it could provide for the AMA ESD.

Wilmot also cited management changes with TBTA and different board members as positive steps to address the issue. TBTA also addressed other issues which the district had, he said.

“This was not about dollar and cents, this was about meeting the needs of our students on the buses and when it came right down to it they agreed to what we needed them to agree to for us to come to the table,” he said.

Reynolds concurred with Wilmot and said the district’s expectations of the services rendered have not changed.

The just over year long contract provides the option for both sides to end contractual services with written notice. The AMA ESD has to provide 90 days notification while TBTA was required to provide 180 days notice.

After a 5-1 vote, with board member Norm Sommerfeld voting against the motion, the board approved the contract. The contract will run from July 1 to Sept. 30, 2018.

Tyler Winowiecki can be reached via email at twinowiecki@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Tyler on Twitter tw_alpenanews.