Bus company asks Groveport Madison for help in attracting school bus drivers

By Rick Palsgrove
Southeast Editor

Late school buses make for angry parents.

Joe Faessler, development director for Petermann LLC, the company which is contracted to provide bus service to Groveport Madison Schools, told the Groveport Madison Board of Education the main factor causing delays on the district’s 63 bus routes is a shortage of bus drivers.

Faessler said a combination of an improving economy that is luring drivers away to full time jobs elsewhere, and the fact the starting pay for bus drivers at Groveport Madison is the lowest in the area, is contributing to the driver shortage.

The starting pay for Petermann LLC bus drivers at Groveport Madison is $14.50 per hour. In comparison, Canal Winchester pays $17.16, Hamilton Township pays $18.22, and Columbus pays $18.50.

Last summer, in an effort to address this, Petermann LLC raised the starting hourly wage by 16 percent and added a few other financial perks.

“But it simply was not enough and things keep changing. Everyone around us increased their wages,” said Faessler. “We need to attract more drivers.”

Petermann LLC made a proposal to the board to increase the drivers’ perfect attendance bonuses and increase the starting hourly wage for bus drivers to $16.50 and the top hourly wage from $23.75 to $24.25. Faessler said this would cost an additional $155,956 per year. Petermann LLC asked Groveport Madison Schools to fund $130,000 of this cost per year.

Last July, Groveport Madison and Petermann LLC agreed to a five year contract for bus service.

Board member Bryan Shoemaker questioned why Groveport Madison should fund the bulk of the proposed wage increase.

“We just negotiated a contract and now you’re realizing you have to pay the drivers more?” asked Shoemaker. “If there was a need you should’ve asked (at contract negotiations). You knew the trends and issues were there.”

Board President Libby Gray was skeptical of Petermann LLC’s proposal.

“I don’t see how this will solve the issue. It’s not going to keep the drivers,” said Gray.

Board member Chris Snyder asked, “Are we going to change this every year? Are we going to be asked to pay another six figure chunk of change?”

Faessler said, “This would catch us up and position us perfectly. I’m 100 percent confident this is the amount we need to get us in good shape. We need to attract more drivers.”

Board member Mary Tedrow favored the proposal stating, “We’re talking about our kids and keeping our parents happy. Let’s try this and see if it helps.”

Gray, Shoemaker, Snyder and board member Nancy Gillespie all voted to table the proposal until the board’s January meeting so more research could be done on the matter.

New home for administration

The Groveport Madison Schools Administrative Office (now called the District Service Center) will begin moving into its new, school district owned, home at 4400 Marketing Place, Suite B, in Groveport, on Dec. 20. Phone and fax numbers for the offices will remain the same. The offices will open to the public in January following the holiday break.

In 2015, the board approved the sale of $9.5 million in bonds to fund the purchase and remodeling of the 31-year-old, 109,000 square foot building located at 4400 Marketing Place. The $9.5 million in bond sales covered the building’s purchase price of $2.8 million with the balance of the money used to remodel the building for the district’s uses. The complex includes the administrative offices, Cruiser Academy, the Innovation Center, and the bus garage. The district previously leased the buildings these facilities previously occupied (except for the bus garage, which the district owned, but it had to move because of the new high school construction) and officials said the district saves money by owning a facility rather than leasing several buildings.

High school project timetable

Smoot Construction officials provided the board with an updated timetable for the new high school construction project.

The 240,000 square foot new high school is expected to open in the fall of 2018. The updated construction timetable is as follows: masonry and structural steel work is ongoing; roofing starts February 2017; brick veneer starts March 2017; drywall starts June 2017; permanent enclosure by September 2017; flooring starts October 2017; wood stage and gym floor starts December 2017; substantial completion of the new high school by May 2018; demolition of existing high school in summer of 2018; softball fields completed by October 2018; and site and paving completed by November 2018.

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  1. Student transportation is one of the biggest problems this district is facing. Before we revise the transportation contract, I feel we need to be absolutely certain the extra money will result in better service. I have more people complain to me now that I am no longer a board member and have heard more complaints about the quality of service this year than any year I can remember. I have heard complaints ranging from busses rolling through stop signs to speeding through residential neighborhoods and I understand one parent has video of the speeding, but I am particularly concerned to hear some drivers are moving students to a different bus. We must know where a student is at all times, and it not up to the bus driver to make that decision. If the board decides to increase the cost of transportation, they must do something to be certain that it results in better service. Frankly, they need to do that even if they do not increase the cost of the contract.


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