School Board Members Again Voice Support For Turning More School Buses Over To Owner Operators

Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Ben Coulter, county school transportation director, gives report on school bus program
Ben Coulter, county school transportation director, gives report on school bus program
- photo by Brent McDonald (See video on NewsChannel 9)

Several members of the county school board, at a finance committee meeting on Tuesday, again voice support for turning more school buses over to owner operators.

The statements came after the county schools face a possible new contract with Durham School Services, which had one of its drivers on Nov. 21 wreck and claim the lives of six Woodmore Elementary School students.

David Testerman said he had "strong misgivings" at the time that a prior board opted for a contract with the private First Student firm. He said it was done "because it was the cheapest."

Mr. Testerman said the primary consideration should be "the safety of the children."

Rhonda Thurman said steps need to be taken to bolster the 49 owner operators who remain, including giving them a new four-year contract.

Ms. Thurman said the schools should consider allowing the independent drivers to have more than one bus as Bradley County does.

She said possibly some of the current Durham drivers might be interested in taking over their own route.

Ms. Thurman said rules need to be changed that make it difficult for drivers to pass on their bus to family members or others.

Steve Highlander, board chairman, said the schools should consider allowing owner operators to park their buses at schools in order to avoid "dead-head" time for which they are not paid while driving the bus home.

Joe Smith, a new board member, said, "I'm encouraged to see more owner operators."

School officials said there would be a very quick turnaround time if the board wants to go out for proposals from other bus firms. There would also be a short window for studying the proposals, it was stated.

It was noted that a new bus firm would have to make a $25 million investment in new school buses and likely would want a contract for several years. A new school bus costs up to $115,000.

One suggestion was to give a one-year extension to the Durham firm.

Ms. Thurman also urged the schools to curb any busing that is not essential, such as for magnet schools.

She said, "Let's get it down and lean and as trim as we can."

Officials said benefits for the owner operators began to phase out in 2010 when the board decided to keep their number at 49.

They receive capacity pay as well as a mileage.reimbursement.

The total transportation budget is $15,692, including $11.7 million going to Durham and $3.4 million to the independent drivers.

The independent drivers get about $32,500 capacity pay and about $23,000 in mileage.

 



Signal Mountain Man Charged In Shooting

A Signal Mountain has been charged after a shooting near the 3100 block of Highway 127 in Sequatchie County on Friday night. Stewart Luttrell, 31, was charged with aggravated assault. Deputies found a man who was shot in the side. Luttrell was then located in a wooded area. The shooting victim was in stable condition. Luttrell was taken to the Sequatchie ... (click for more)

Man Shot During Robbery On Rawlings Street

A man was shot in an early morning robbery on Rawlings Street on Saturday.   Chattanooga Police responded at 1:10 a.m. to the 2100 block of Rawlings Street.   Officers were called to a local hospital on reports of a victim arriving who was suffering from a gunshot wound.   The victim, 38-year-old Maurice Flanagan, advised that he was approached ... (click for more)

Mayor Invites Civil War II - And Response (12)

I just received an email from the Mayor stating that he filed paperwork to remove the city of Chattanooga as the trustee for the Confederate Cemetery on Third Street. I understand the Mayor's intent was to distance the city from it's racist past and subsequent hate, but I feel like this is an interesting move without much thought of the consequences. The Mayor prefaced his ... (click for more)

Berke Plan To Solve Discrimination Is To Kick Dead Veterans To The Curb

Racism and discrimination is wrong. What is the best way for a parent to teach a child the evils of discrimination? Should the parent demonstrate and repetitively incentivize the proper behavior? Or, would it be more productive to badger the child over and over again for the sins of the child's g-g-g-grandfather who died 150 years ago? Would burning the personal effects of the grandfather ... (click for more)

Ty Boeck Scores Three TDs As Soddy Daisy Wins 35-32

Justin Barnes had a tough time wiping the smile off of his face late Friday night at Soddy Daisy’s Robert Talaska Field. His Trojans had just picked up a 35-32 victory over arch-rival Red Bank in a non-district game, but he’s been involved in three of these games as a player and now five as a coach.  He won all three as Red Bank’s quarterback before graduating in 1999 and ... (click for more)

Defending Champ Farragut Clips Bears 27-21 In OT

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Farragut has one of the nation’s top-rated senior tight ends in the country and the Admirals weren’t shy about utilizing their primary offensive weapon against Bradley Central on Friday night at Bear Stadium. Jacob Warren, the super-talented 6-foot-6, 226-pound receiver caught four touchdown passes that included the game-winner in the Admirals’ 27-21 overtime ... (click for more)