Low bidder in Lowell special needs student transport case files complaint
LOWELL — The busing firm bypassed for the School Department’s special-education transportation contract — awarded last year to a company at a significantly higher cost — has filed a complaint with the state Office of the Inspector General, The Sun has learned.
PrideStar EMS, Inc., based in Lowell, won the special-education transportation contract in November for $9.7 million over three years.
A month earlier, North Reading Transportation Inc., had bid about $1.4 million less over the three-year period, and was poised to receive the contract at the lower bid. A few weeks later, the School Committee awarded the contract to PrideStar.
Special-education transportation contracts are exempt from Chapter 30B under Massachusetts General Law, meaning the contract does not have to be awarded to the lowest bidder. The School Committee voted for a more expensive contract months before the Lowell Public Schools faced a $2.5 million budget shortfall and slashed positions.
The city has contacted the Office of the Inspector General about the contract. Then on Friday, NRT submitted a complaint to the state office, urging the state to give its opinion as soon as possible. The School Committee will not take any action in connection with the Pridestar contract until Inspector General Glenn A. Cunha weighs in, the complaint states.