(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of two stories regarding Tuesday, Oct. 2’s meeting of the Mingo County Board of Education.)
WILLIAMSON — The Mingo County Board of Education met Tuesday evening and heard a presentation from Transportation Director of Mingo County Schools Joe Howard.
Howard began by saying that a total of 54 buses serve the county which altogether reach close to 900,000 miles traveled each year. Four new buses are purchased every year to swap out older ones, with two of them this year being special needs buses, with Howard saying that those buses were an important concern for him.
He also said that currently five new trainees were were being trained, with two of them being tested soon, possibly as early as this week. Howard said that the bus drivers for Mingo County “have to drive a lot of times when they shouldn’t,” like when they are sick, and praised them for their dedication, but said that it would be good to have back-ups.
Lastly, he noted that the county only purchases one brand of bus, International, so that mechanics can be familiar with the buses and said that it cut down the cost and difficultly in finding replacement parts.
When asked about the details of the new buses each year from the board members, Howard said that the number was mandated by the state and talked on the price involved when President William Duty asked.
“Nine years ago, a bus was around $60,000,” Howard said. “Now it’s closer to $100,000.”
Duty asked how wrecked buses were handled and where insurance money would go. Over the last six years, Howard said, seven buses had been lost to accidents.
“Usually when wrecked, the money is put into a bus fund,” Howard said.
He likened buses to cars, saying that they quickly lose their value after the first year. As an example, he said that a wrecked bus from 2006 could in no way pay for a new 2012 bus.
He said that the money in the fund builds up until it reaches the threshold when another bus could be purchased to replace a wrecked bus.
Duty also asked about the miles per gallon and whether or not gas prices had risen for the buses. Howard said that prices had been fair, saying that buses now get around six miles per gallon instead of how they used to only get four or five.
Howard was asked also about brake wear on buses and if there had been any issue with buses going up and down the mountain on which Mingo Central High School is located. Howard said there had not been any wear that he knew of and had prevented the problem before it could have begun by using newer buses for the school.
Board member Dave Farley said that he had heard a rumor that buses had been frequently arriving late at the school, between five and 10 minutes and wanted to know if there was any truth to it.
“I’ve not had any calls about that,” Howard said. “Sometimes, drivers may arrive late, but they always have valid excuses. I’ve not heard of anything like that.”
Mingo County Superintendent Randy Keathley praised the bus drivers and local law enforcement, saying that sometimes officers ride on buses to observe traffic and make sure the general public was obeying the mobile stop sign and flashing lights that school buses have. Howard agreed, saying that practice and cameras on the buses had been a boon to bus safety and efficiency.
At the end of the presentation, Duty thanked Howard for being present, speaking to them and for doing he and his drivers for doing their jobs.
“Thank you so much for taking the children and getting them safely to school.”