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#SaveFreeman Bus as Your Child's Transportation Provider & Save 70 Jobs in Watertown, NY

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Please Sign and Share Our Petition to Help #SaveFreeman Bus as your child's Watertown City Schools’ Transportation Provider and Save 70 Local Jobs.

Parents should have an opportunity to weigh in on this important decision and be able to voice their concerns.

Freeman employees treat your children as though they were their very own students attending school.

Freeman Bus Corporation has been a cornerstone of this community for over 80 years.  It has provided school transportation for the Watertown City School District since 1964.

Locally owned and operated for 80 years, Freeman Bus Corporation has a longstanding history in the northern New York area.

We take pride in the fact that we have been a presence in so many generations of families in this region.

We are transporting the children of the children we transported many years ago, and their children before them.

We look forward to continue providing the family value traditions that have kept us close to our customers, and expand the same to those customers seeking such services.

Statement to the Watertown City School Board of Education.

We came to tonight’s Board of Education meeting to address the Bid Award for Transportation, listed on tonight’s agenda as we are all, in one way or another, a member of this community as well as part of the Freeman Bus Corporation Family. 

According to prior meeting minutes, we are aware that 2 bidders submitted information for the Request for Bid for Student Transportation on November 30.  We are aware that Freeman Bus Corporation and First Student were those bidders. 

Freeman Bus Corporation has been a cornerstone of this community for over 80 years.  It has provided not only school transportation for the Watertown City School District since 1964, but also public transportation as well as charter services in that 80+ year time frame.  Freeman Bus Corporation is a deeply rooted, 4th generation, FAMILY OWNED business and provides many services to this community that cannot easily be replaced.

Freeman Bus employs approximately 70 people, which includes part-time drivers as well as mechanics, wash bay technicians, and administrative personnel.

We, the employees of Freeman Bus Corporation, are concerned with the implications of this bid award, personally and professionally.

We are concerned with the implications of awarding the contract to First Student, a contractor with multiple well-known service issues at Indian River, as documented by Indian River Central Board Meeting Minutes. 

Extensive driver shortages since July 1, 2013 have led to route consolidations, 65 students riding a bus on a route, and the delay of sporting events to provide transportation of students to the event.  

These are just a few of the documented issues. 

Currently, First Student at Indian River is between 14 and 17 drivers short. 

These service issues now have the District looking at running their own transportation department, instead of contracting, only 4 1/2 years after Indian River awarded First Student their Transportation Bid. 

This could be a potential additional cost of $1.6 million dollars annually for non-aid able health benefits alone, as referenced by their November 2, 2107 meeting minutes and a transportation review by Transportation Advisory Services.

 How will you prevent First Student addressing shortages at Indian River/Gouverneur/Lisbon without impacting Watertown’s service?

As Freeman Bus Corporation employees, we have great pride.

Many of us have driven the parents of the students we now have on our runs or been passengers ourselves. 

We know “our” students and their families. 

We do not have to worry mechanically about our fleet of school buses; our mechanics are top of the line. 

Our maintenance shop always has a high inspection rating on our NYS DOT bus inspections, 99.1% last year. 

We do not have to worry about the cleanliness of our fleet, our wash bay personnel can keep it just as spotless in the winter as it is any other time of year, thanks to our 15 bay garage. 

These are just a few “services” and safety priorities we offer to the children of this community.

As Freeman Bus employees, and members of this community, we have some concerns.

1.     Using First Student’s numbers, they can potentially save around NINE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS annually on a 3 million dollar contract relative to current Freeman billing.  Freeman Bus employee payroll expense rounds out to approximately $1.5 million dollars annually, so that would leave $600,000 operating cash.

2.     How can any corporation service a contract sufficiently with that great a shortfall?  What will be the service impact of these savings?

 3.    Freeman Bus is located literally minutes from the schools.  According to First Student, they are looking at a location off of Coffeen Street up by the Mall that will offer 2 service bays and office space. 

 4.    Where will the buses be housed/maintained/cleaned during our infamous balmy Northern New York winter weather?  Are there facilities for driver’s to congregate between runs, especially in the event of morning delays or early dismissals?  How long will it take a bus to get from the First Student Facility to the necessary school in the event of an emergency?  Will the buses for special needs students be housed inside to provide better climate control for those students?

 5.    Is there a formal “Transition” Plan?  Having already been party to a Freeman Bus/First Student Transition, we know that promises (wages, benefits, etc.) were made that were never kept at Indian River by First Student, hence why the Indian River First Student drivers and attendants unionized.

 Approximately 60% of our current employees have been at Freeman Bus Corporation 5 years or longer.  34% have been here 10 years or longer and 15% have been here 20 years or longer.  We have a LOT of seniority under our belts. 

 Freeman Bus offers our employees 401k as well as dental, vision, accident, critical illness, cancer, and short term disability voluntary benefits.  We have 2 community businesses, Foy Benefits and the Rosner Financial Group, that we have partnered with to offer specialized services to our employees, from assistance navigating the New York State of Health and Medicare system to financial and retirement planning. 

 First Student offers no 401k/retirement savings to its drivers, offers only limited voluntary benefits through Aflac at Indian River and has ZERO community partners.

 These are just a few of our concerns. 

In the Request for Bid specifications it states repeatedly that “The District has the sole discretion to determine the best Bid to meet the needs of the District” and that “The Board Reserves the Right” to choose the contractor. 

The employees of Freeman Bus Corporation sincerely hope that you review the community services they have provided for the last 80+ years and specifically the past 54 years of service to the Watertown City School District when making your decision.

Thank you for your time and consideration

Freeman Bus Drivers

Freeman Bus Corporation - 1067 Marble Street - Watertown, NY 13601

Email: - Phone: 315-788-1900

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