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Town Bus Drivers React to Hiring of Private Company

Joanne Buckley and Arnold Lee, both Seekonk bus drivers for more than a decade, expressed reservations regarding the newly-awarded bus contract to Tremblay Bus Co, LLC.

Joanne Buckley has been a Seekonk bus driver for more than 25 years. For the town resident, the position is more than just a job. She knows the routes cold. The school bus stays in her driveway in case an emergency driver is needed. She has shepherded generations of school-bound students.

"I've driven the parents of kids I drive now. Some of those include teachers," she said.

So when Seekonk School Committee members voted to accept a bid from Tremblay's Holding Company, Inc. to allow the private company to transport regular day students and special education students, she was less than pleased. Even though it's unknown if the company will offer hourly jobs to former drivers employed by the town, she doesn't think she would take the new gig.

"I'm going to have to retire now," she said, anticipating that the new company, if hired, would not pay for her health insurance.

According to Buckley, the new company also wouldn't be as quick to remedy problems, like bus break-downs, because the company isn't located in Seekonk.

"Things don't always work like they're supposed to," she said, noting bus drivers are often called into impromptu shifts.

And there's nothing like the personal touch of a seasoned driver, said Buckley.

"They're not going to know the routes," said Buckley, noting drivers act like caregivers. "You're kind of like a mother ... We drop off forgotten music instruments."

Driver Arnold Lee shares similar sentiments to Buckley. While he thinks school committee members are acting in the best interest of the town, he still laments the loss of a "family."

"You see the same kids in the morning," he said. "We all live here in a small town, you'll see each other grocery shopping on Route 6 somewhere, or at a Little League game or at a band concer t... We support the kids."

According to Barbara Hamel, the school department's finance director, the contract is being looked at by lawyers before it is officially accepted. The bus drivers' current contracts officially expire July 1, unless renewed by the school department.

kim nels June 11, 2011 at 10:47 PM
I am glad to see these lazy Seekonk bus drivers go. They idle these buses for as much as 35 min every morning that makes no sense at all but to bulk up their hours. They often sit in their cars while they idle the buses or stand around chit chatting with other drivers when they are required by law to be in their bus during idling times. The law requires that these buses are not to idle more than 5 min.Plain and simple these drivers were bleeding the system dry.
kim nels June 11, 2011 at 11:04 PM
The Tremblay buses are safer than the run down old Seekonk buses.The deisel fumes are a real hazzard for our children and surrounding comunity as they pollute the air with toxins that are dangerous to our health.Seekonk ignored this problem for years as they refuse to relocate their bus depots that are next to residential areas.One of these areas are on School st where they back these buses right up to their low income housing where young children play in the yard.Our air will be alot cleaner by choosing the Tremblay decision and our children will be alot safer.
deb of see-attleboro June 11, 2011 at 11:28 PM
Kim: My understanding is that the drivers and buses were negotiated into the Tremblay contract. YUP! The buses AND the drivers were "sold" to Tremblays. Those buses will have to be parked somewhere. I am still awaiting the detailed contract.
paul June 12, 2011 at 11:21 AM
The traffic jams at Hurley and Aitkin 5 days a week complete with Police crossing guards at each school suggest that way more than half of the children in this town get dropped off. Full size buses in a town this small is a waste. If a child in Jr. High school can't cross the street on their own then they should not be in that school. The cops at Hurley do nothing but let cars in and out. We did not have cops when I went to that school and I rode my bike unless it was raining. OMG, I can't believe they made us cross 152 without cops back then. If people car pooled, buses could be let go and we could hire some of the 78 cops being laid off in Providence.
Mary M June 13, 2011 at 10:07 PM
I have a question: Will Trembley be using the Seekonk Buses (saying Seekonk on it) or will the kids be picked up by Trembley named buses? Not that it makes a big difference ... but my daughter asked.

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