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Friday, June 20, 2014

Nashua on track to renew contract with First Transit for bus services

NASHUA – The city is set to renew its contract with an Ohio company that manages its busing service, providing drivers for Nashua’s fleet of buses and trolleys.

Members of the aldermanic Finance Committee voted Wednesday to recommend approving a five-year, $7.9 million contract with First Transit, headquartered in Cincinnati. ...

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NASHUA – The city is set to renew its contract with an Ohio company that manages its busing service, providing drivers for Nashua’s fleet of buses and trolleys.

Members of the aldermanic Finance Committee voted Wednesday to recommend approving a five-year, $7.9 million contract with First Transit, headquartered in Cincinnati.

Nashua’s previous agreement with the company was executed in 2009 and is set to expire by July.

The city put the transit service contract out for bids, and although First Transit’s proposal was slightly higher than a
competitor, city staff recommended sticking with the company.

During a presentation earlier this month, Nashua’s outgoing Transportation Department manager Mark Sousa said he was impressed with First Transit and the quality of its employees.

“Their professionalism is by far one of the things that really makes them stand out to me,” he said.

The Nashua Transit System offers 10 fixed bus routes covering the city’s most populated neighborhoods, as well as commercial and industrial areas. All routes start at the Nashua Transit Center on Elm Street behind City Hall.

The transit service also offers the City Lift program, which is available to residents of Nashua with special mobility needs, people with disabilities and those who are 65 or older.

Earlier this year, the city solicited proposals from six companies for transit service. The low bidder was MV Transportation, of Dallas, Texas, which proposed running the transit services for $7.6 million over five years. First Transit had a slightly higher offer, coming in at $7.9 million. The third firm in the running was Veolia Transportation, which placed a bid for $8 million.

As part of the city’s review, staff reached out to places where each of the companies currently conducts business. They also researched “potential issues that have been in the news,” according to a memo prepared by Chief Financial Officer John Griffin.

One of the potential issues that was uncovered is the possibility that MV Transportation is up for sale. A Feb. 23 article published in the Dallas Morning News indicates MV Transportation is preparing to execute that option.

Efforts to contact the company this week were unsuccessful.

“Originally, this was never really disclosed to us that they were up for sale,” Sousa told members of the Board of Aldermen earlier this month, “and we were kind of concerned that they didn’t bring that up because we allowed every company to explain if there’s any changes coming for the company.”

Sousa said city staff also were concerned that the company’s bid showed driver wages would fall in successive years of the contract. MV Transportation informed the city that it planned to pay drivers a lower hourly rate than drivers receive under the current contract.

Since Nashua receives federal grant money to help pay for bus service, the bidding process is governed by rules laid out by the Federal Transit Administration.

Under those rules, the city can bypass a low bidder if another contractor would improve long-term operating efficiency or lower long-term costs, according to Griffin’s memo.

Sousa and other members of the city’s bid review team chose to exercise that option, recommending that the city award a new five-year contract with First Transit, which received the highest score.

Under the proposed contract with First Transit, the company would be paid a fixed monthly price, covering administrative costs and overhead, plus a variable price based on hours of service.

The fixed rate would start at $32,093 per month in the first year of the contract and eventually rise to $35,502 by year five. The variable rate would start at $26.71 per hour in year one and rise to $28.84 in the final year of the contract.

First Transit would be responsible for hiring and firing drivers, including running background checks on job seekers, providing training, taking disciplinary action and managing payroll and benefits. The company also is required to buy insurance and provide supervisors to monitor job performance.

The city would continue to handle maintenance of vehicles and transit facilities, as well as purchasing and marketing responsibilities.

The transit services contract is set to go before the full Board of Aldermen for approval at its next meeting on Tuesday night at City Hall.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).