I am writing on behalf of the members of the Hancock County Board of Education.
Recently there have been some gross misrepresentations and statistics put forth about parking school buses in New Cumberland.
Due to the property in Weirton being sold, an alternative site was necessary. Subsequent to a very thorough study conducted by the Transportation Department, the most feasible relocation was determined to be at the New Cumberland bus garage. This site has been recommended to the superintendent by the transportation supervisor and maintenance personnel.
As many know, Hancock County is the smallest geographical county in the state. Most of the other counties larger than Hancock County locate their school buses in a central location. The New Cumberland bus garage is the geographical center of Hancock County.
However, in addition to the facts, there are other factors that enter into the decision to park the buses in New Cumberland. Additionally, there have been cost factors not mentioned by teh few drivers who would try to mislead for their own benefit. It is alleged by some that there is a large waste of taxpayers' money and that the safety of children is being compromised. In so stating, there is no mention that drivers who park in Weirton must be compensated every time the bus must come to the bus garage for service. The compensation is a minimum of two hours pay or more, if necessary. This includes even the most minor of repairs and regular service. Often times when mechanical malfunctions occur, one or two mechanics must be dispatched to Weirton with a service truck. Also, should mechanical problems arise at a central location at the start of the school day for morning and afternoon runs, the mechanics are on site with all necessary repair equipment.
As for safety of the children, please be reminded that the Hancock County children are not only in Weirton. An emergency response could arise in any one of our schools, and a central location is primary for an expeditious response. It also should be noted that the county's emergency response plan causing mass evacuation is in place. The most likely mass evacuation scenario has been in response to a nuclear malfunction at the Shippingport facility. The county response plan calls for evacutation to occur immediately within the 10 mile radius of the nuclear facility and transport would be to Weirton and not vice versa. Also of note is the fact that drivers who reside in the far north end of Hancock County have been driving to the bus garage for years (a longer distance) with no adverse efforts to normal operations.
Some of the most important responsibilities of the county administration and the board of education are fiscal responsibility and safety of our children. Does anyone truly believe that the administration or the board would intentionally waste taxpayer money or compromise children's safety? The decision to park the buses at the New Cumberland garage is based on thorough study and great benefit to Hancock County Schools. Some, but not all, the factors considered are listed:
The construction of a new bus parking facility in Weirton would be an enormous cost to the board and taxpayers. The present facility at the bus garage can accommodate all buses. Currently, this facility houses two-thirds of our bus fleet. This facility is lighted, fenced with a security gate system, cameras and the fuel stations are under 24-hour surveillance preventing vandalism and theft.
Installing a separate fuel depot in proximity to the new elementary school would cause concerns relative to the safety of our children and surrounding residences due to storage and delivery of fuel by large tanker trucks.
The administration has met with county and municipal emergency and law enforcement personnel. These agencies have assured our school system that they are prepared to respond instantly to any emergency occurring in any of our schools countywide.
Due to the admirable concern shown by taxpayers in our recent operational levy, prevention resource officers will be placed in all high schools, middle schools and elementary schools beginning with the 2014-2015 school year.
As a result of the recent review of all transportation policies, including the relocation of buses, other bus schedule changes and school starting and ending times will be adjusted for the 2014-2015 school year. These changes will result in enormous transportation savings to our school system.
For better maintenance of our buses, the board has approved a contract to install an all-weather wash bay building also located at the New Cumberland central bus garage.
Based on these and other factors that were considered, the decision to relocate buses to the central facility is irrevocable. This is in the best interest of all Hancock County taxpayers and students.
Make no mistake that this decision will not be influenced by a few self-serving drivers whose real purpose is to prevent their drive to the central bus garage.