On and Off The Mountain/Stephanie Grubert

CRESTWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT BUSES were delivered last week. Crestwood’s new transportation contractor, The Mountain Top Bus Co. owned by businessman Kevin Foley, parked 23 buses in the Crestwood High School lot last week. Four additional full size yellow buses will be delivered this week along with 3 vans. Foley says he has hired all drivers for his fleet and is qualifying additional drivers. No driver will be allowed perform without clearances, stated Foley. The Crestwood School Board will vote on the bus company’s proposed routes and the driver list at the board’s August 18 public meeting. School begins August 29, 2016.

The school buses will be rolling on August 29, 2016, the first day of school for students in the Crestwood school district. Crestwood transports approximately 3200 students including 300 to private schools every day.

Crestwood’s new Transportation Contractor is Mountain Top Bus Co., owned by businessman Kevin Foley. Foley was awarded the $1.9 million contract at the May 12, 2016 Crestwood School Board Meeting. Crestwood advertised a Request for Proposals in March 2016 after the current contractor Rinehimer Bus Lines declined to renew their contract for the following two years until 2018.

Foley took delivery of $1.8 million worth of new and used buses, 27 total from Wolfington Body Co. of Exton, PA last week. Foley’s company is also purchasing 3 new vans. Many of the buses are new and no vehicles will be older than 2013 models. Foley’s proposal asked for 0% above state reimbursement rate for each year of the 5-year contract. Foley is new to the transportation industry, but he does have hands on financial experience with the previous contractor, Rinehimer Bus Lines, when his accounting firm worked through the bankruptcy of former Rinehimer owner Ed Deets.

The previous Crestwood contractor, Rinehimer Bus Lines, operated by Scott Henry of the Martz Bus Company after he acquired it through the Deets bankruptcy liquidation, proposed a 3% increase above the state reimbursement rate in years 1 and 2 and 5% above the state rate for years 3, 4, and 5. Rinehimer’s average fleet age was 8.9 years with 25 of 41 vehicles age 9 or older at the time he filed his proposal. The Rinehimer proposal would have cost the Crestwood School District an additional $460,000 over the life of the contract, according to Crestwood School Board Transportation Committee Chairman Randy Swank.

Rumblings from Rinehimer drivers about the future of their jobs began in May 2016, even before the contract was approved. On June 22, 2016 the Eagle published a letter to the editor from Pattie Ostrowski, a Rinehimer driver for 35 years, pledging allegiance to Scott Henry and the Rinehimer company. The letter said the Rinehimer drivers had signed a petition to stick with Scott Henry and his companies and not to drive for Kevin Foley’s Mountain Top Bus Company. The drivers said they were confident that the new company would not get enough drivers and they would get their Rinehimer jobs back.

Kevin Foley started advertising for drivers and was puzzled that the Rinehimer drivers were not applying for jobs with his Mountain Top Bus Co. Foley had several information meetings to recruit new drivers and called every Rinehimer driver and asked him or her to apply with his company.

Foley had recruitment meetings

for the drivers at the American Legion Post 781 and more recently at King’s Pizza on July 20 held jointly with Career Link, a service of the Pennsylvania Unemployment Office that assists employees that have lost their jobs. The Rinehimer drivers lost their Crestwood jobs as a result of the transportation contract awarded to Kevin Foley and the Mountain Top Bus Co. As Rinehimer has no Crestwood job for them to return to, they were told their unemployment compensation would terminate the day after the first day of school August 29, 2016. There were some Rinehimer drivers at the King’s Pizza meeting and also drivers from other school districts.

I had a conversation with a veteran Rinehimer driver over the weekend and the sentiment was “I am not for sale!” The driver explained that Scott Henry and his Rinehimer management employees asked the Rinehimer drivers to sign a noncompete contract in May. “We were told to come to the garage to sign. Mooney Eckrote told us ‘If you want to work for Rinehimer, sign.’ Some drivers got $250 cash on the spot for signing. I didn’t sign right away and the money was included in a paycheck.”

Scott Henry invited the Rinehimer drivers and their families to an outing at Knoebels Grove two days after the King’s Pizza recruitment meeting on July 22. “About 15 Rinehimer drivers and their families came to the Knoebels outing. Scott Henry did not even know my name. He told us he had paychecks with him for us for the first two weeks of school. He handed them out to the employees who were there. I just opened mine today. It said it was for the pay period of 8/28/16 to 9/10/16 in the amount of $612 and dated September 16, 2016. We usually get our pay through direct deposit. He said these were live checks from Rinehimer Bus Lines. I don’t know if the bank would cash that check,” commented the driver.

Foley is still looking for drivers. “Would you apply for a job with his company now that the new school year is only two weeks away? I asked. “I want the right thing for the kids and the taxpayers. Some drivers are thinking of coming over,” the driver stated.

The drivers would like to keep their jobs. They were told that Kevin Foley had no drivers and no buses. The buses are in Mountain Top and they are ready to roll. Mountain Top Bus Co. has the drivers they need and would like to hire at least 7 or 8 additional drivers. The Rinehimer era is over for Crestwood School District. “We must accept change. Why would I not want to drive a new bus, get a raise, and take care of the kids?” concludes the veteran Rinehimer driver.

Thunderstorms We had a busy week in

Mountaintop with thunderstorms beginning Wednesday August 10 through Sunday August 14. The lightening shows were brilliant and the thunder loud. Tom Clark measured a total of 2.6 inches of rain for the five days with the biggest downpour Friday night at 1.21 inches.

All the rain is keeping the lawns green and the flowers and vegetable gardens thriving. Along with the rain we’ve had some hot muggy days. Saturday August 13 I had 92° at my house by noon and a hot steamy night.

The storms were mostly of short duration and I m hoping the St. Jude’s Picnic patrons came out in between for the annual event. Shuttle buses from Civarella were traveling to and from the picnic from the Crestwood High School parking lot as parking is limited due to the new church construction. Hopefully all worked out.

Festival and Car Show There is more than one Peach

Festival in the region this month. St. Johns United Church of Christ

in Wapwallopen will host its fourth Annual Peach Festival on Saturday, August 20th from 10 am till 4 pm. The event will take place in the area surrounding the church. Admission and parking are free.

Peaches from Heller Orchard will be featured. Homemade peach ice cream, peach dumplings, peach shortcake sundaes, peach pie, corn on the cob, French fries, hot dogs and hamburgers will be served. Over 50 craft vendors will be part of the event. Jesse Fink and Friends will provide music. Be sure to check out the details in this week’s Mountain Calendar.

Another highly anticipated event is the Wright Township Fire Company’s Annual Car Show Sunday August 21 at the Wright Township Park. Antique, Classics, Street Rods, Rat Rods, Custom, Muscle, 4x4, Trucks and Motorcycles will compete for trophies and prizes. Sounds like a fun time for the family. The car show hours are 9 to 3 p. m.