Butler County JFS has new $11.25M transportation deal, higher than officials wanted

Butler County Job and Family Services has a new three-year, $11.25 million contract with Universal Transportation Systems for non-emergency medical appointments.

The county commissioners balked at a $10 million UTS bid last summer and asked JFS Executive Director Bill Morrison to rebid it.

“This is $10 million and I don’t know of any other contract that we let for $10 million that we don’t have several competitors working to actively try to get the contract. It’s just not healthy to do that,” Commissioner Don Dixon said.

“To just have one provider is probably not a good thing anyway, because you kind of don’t have any options if something goes wrong.”

UTS came back with a $12.4 million bid but Morrison negotiated it down to $11.25 million, or about $3.7 million per year, when the commissioners approved the contract several weeks ago. The contract was based on 133,644 trips per year.

The only other bidder, MTM Inc., wanted $20 million. Morrison compared the per-trip rates with neighboring agencies and found Montgomery County JFS would pay $16.2 million for 133,644 trips and Hamilton County $12.7 million, but the county to the south handles its own calls and scheduling.

“I think we’re just harder,” Morrison said about the county’s lower rate. “We drive a tough bargain. We got the two bids and we made UTS drop what they did to get it down to a point where I felt comfortable saying this is the best deal we can get.”

Universal Transportation Systems, based in West Chester Twp., won the $9.2 million JFS contract three years ago as the only bidder. The company provides transportation to non-emergency medical appointments for the agency’s Medicaid clients.

UTS owner Geoff Kuzio told the Journal-News the price went from $10 million to the current cost because the company hadn’t adjusted its rates in about eight years and it was time.

“The CPI (consumer price index) has gone up significantly if you look at that period of time,” Kuzio said. “Previously we were losing money on all the trips we were performing for Butler County. I bought the company in 2017 and I kind of inherited that contract…. Our target is to make a five percent profit and we were in negative territory.”

Dixon said the lack of competition is what hurts.

“Unless somebody else wants to step into that business you’re kind of limited on your pick,” Dixon said. “Those companies are really the only ones that do it. The good news is they report to us is they don’t have a problem with the service.”

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