DALLAS TWP. — In the face of an over-packed meeting room and intense public opinion, the Dallas School Board on Monday unanimously voted to reconsider proposals for district busing services.
The board had voted 5-3 on May 5 to switch from the Dallas-based, longtime provider Emanuel’s Bus Line to G. Davis Inc. of Pike County to save $83,000 a year over a five-year contract. The move would have switched service from diesel-fueled buses to a propane-fueled fleet.
While much of the criticism centered on the safety concerns regarding propane-powered buses, the emphasis was placed on the potential criminal record of a G. Davis employee and the impact it would have on Dallas bus business owner Jeff Emanuel and his employees.
Thirteen residents from different communities within the district had spoken out against the change before the board temporarily retired for an executive session and then came back to vote to reconsider proposals.
G. Davis and Emanuel will now both be eligible to resubmit their proposals by noon Friday. A public hearing to award the contract will be held at the Dallas High School Auditorium on Thursday, May 23 at 5 p.m.
There will be time for public comment at that meeting, but district officials said that there will be strictly enforced time limits.
District Superintendent Frank Gallicki said board members and administrators will need to attend a high school awards banquet at 6 p.m. that same day.
The proposals will be uploaded onto the district’s website, www.dallassd.com as of Monday, May 20.
Most of the comments made by parents of Dallas students centered on a G. Davis Inc. employee who might have harmed a child in the past.
Board President Richard Coslett acknowledged there was a person with a criminal record associated with G. Davis, but neither he nor any other district official would mention the employee’s name, job function or the nature of the crime.
He did, however, promise that the company “was thoroughly vetted.”
Board Solicitor Benjamin Jones said language could be added to the contract that would prevent the person from entering into a situation where he or she would come into contact with any Dallas student.
These statements, however, were met with skepticism from residents that attended the meeting.
“We cannot base our decision on the question of this person’s crime,” board member Colleen Slocum said. When she added that “it’s none of our business,” the audience erupted with disapproval.
Additionally, many criticized the board for the potential harm this will have on Emanuel, which is a local business, contributing tax revenue directly to the district.
Trucksville resident and Dallas High School graduate Robert Hivish, the current Berwick borough manager, said service changes like this only typically come when there are problems.
“We should not be trying to fix things that are not broken,” he said with regard to the quality of service provided by Emanuel.
Additionally, a number of parents as well as Emanuel bus drivers addressed the board to state their doubts that drivers employed by G. Davis will bring the same, local, personalized care.
The next board meeting will be May 23 at 5 p.m.