The Liberty County Board of Education approved three bus-related transportation measures at its meeting Tuesday.
Tony Norce, director of transportation, now has the green light to purchase 120 REI camera surveillance systems at a projected $196,800 from National Bus Parts in Atlanta. The purchase includes installation and a five-year warranty.
While the board approved his project proposal in a meeting this spring, a May incident that led to the arrests of seven Snelson-Golden Middle School students further demonstrated the need for the cameras, Norce said in an interview before the meeting.
“If a situation arises on the bus, we need to know who did what so those parties can be addressed,” Norce said.
On average, Liberty County School System buses transport 7,500 children to and from school each day using 135 routes.
The new system will hold all parties — students, bus drivers, parents and even other drivers — accountable if a problem should arise, Norce said. It will include four cameras and a passive GPS system that synchronizes the footage with data about the locations and speeds of the vehicles.
“If I want to know what the driver was going at 2 o’clock, I can find out what they were doing and where,” he said. Footage will be digitally stored in about two-week segments, which gives administrators some time to review footage if necessary.
The previous system, which used eight-hour VHS tapes, was faulty and only allowed a short window to review footage, Norce said.
The system also will keep a log of whether the bus is stopped and its amber lights are engaged. The cameras will be positioned in the front of the bus facing the rear, in the rear of the bus facing forward, on the dashboard to record the road ahead, and over the drivers’ left shoulder angled down to capture the steps onto the bus and any parent interactions, Norce said.
He intends to have each of the cameras installed and running by the beginning of the school year, but timing depends on the supplier’s schedule, he said.
The board also approved a plan to supplement state bond funds to purchase two new 72-passenger buses at $165,914. The state’s 2012 Bond Bus program will provide $152,438 toward the purchase, and the board approved a $16,756 supplement to cover the excess.
The state previously allocated the county four bond buses at a value of $305,168, so the LCSS will have six new buses this year in its fleet of 180.
The board also approved a plan to surplus out nine buses and one 1995 Chevy Lumina, which has not been used in years, Norce said. These vehicles will be listed on GovDeals.com with a minimum bid of $1,500 to recoup some revenue. If the minimum bids are not met, the buses will be sold to a scrapyard, where their value is an estimated $1,700, he said.
The purchase of new vehicles and the retiring of older ones is part of the department’s 20-year plan, which will begin in 2013.
In preparation for the rotation, the department is refurbishing 19 buses this year and 19 next year. Beginning in 2013, the board will purchase seven buses, refurbish seven and retire seven every year to ensure that each vehicle can be used for 20 years, Norce said.
“That way we can keep the fleet fresh and safe,” he said.
The plan will keep a stable maintenance schedule and allow the board some budget predictability, versus past plans that saw spikes and valleys in the number of vehicles purchased, he said.
In personnel matters, the board approved a transfer that moves Rosie Fleming to the vacant county instructional technology specialist position. Fleming was a second-grade teacher at Waldo Pafford Elementary, and the board plans to hire a new teacher to replace her, Superintendent Judy Scherer said in an interview before the meeting.
The board also voted to create an assistant grounds foreman position, a matter the members discussed during their June retreat. The position’s duties include assisting grounds foreman Vera Mobley with landscape and turf grass management throughout the county and overseeing the grounds crew. The position is budgeted on a scale ranging from $25,865.28 at entry level to $39,123.56 for someone with more than 21 years of experience.
Board members Lily Baker, Verdell Jones, Marcia Anderson, Becky Carter, Carol Guyett and Harold Woods were present for the meeting. Charlie Frasier was not.