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Council denies school bus replacement funds

After several moments of silent prayer Monday night for Gov. Frank L. O’Bannon’s recovery from a cerebral hemorrhage, the Harrison County Council got back to the normal business of the day. The seven-member fiscal board acted unanimously on most decisions.
A request for $385,000 to replace the now-defunct Carpenter company’s school buses due to a design flaw, was denied 5-0-1, with Councilman Carl Duley abstaining because, he said, he’s a school bus contractor for the South Harrison schools and owns a Carpenter bus.
North Harrison Community School Corp. Supt. Monty Schneider had asked the council to approve the money for seven buses, six for North Harrison and one for Lanesville. The overhead weld on one of those models had not held up in a crash in Florida, and Schneider and Lanesville Supt. Dr. Phil Partenheimer had asked the council for money to replace the school-owned buses as a matter of safety.
Councilwoman Rhonda Rhoads, a teacher in the North Harrison system, told Schneider Monday night: ‘I don’t think there is anyone here who is not for safety.
‘Our concern is the private contractors,’ Rhoads said. ‘If we buy for one, we should buy for all.’
Numerous contract bus drivers own those buses, she said.
She said it would be her suggestion that the commissioners ask for additional funds when they seek the usual appropriation for education this fall.
‘I understand your position,’ Schneider said.
Council chair Gary Davis’ call for a motion to deny the request brought a motion to that effect from Kenneth Saulman, seconded by Alvin Brown and the 5-0-1 vote.
‘If the commissioners would see fit to ask for an advance of education money, I would be willing to help,’ said Councilman Carl (Buck) Mathes. ‘It wouldn’t be a loan.’
Saulman added: ‘We feel safety is a big issue also, but I can’t find anywhere that says we need to take those buses out right away, just as they get too old.’
Davis told Schneider: ‘I think it’s up to the school corporation what to do with these buses, and as you mentioned earlier, you have the wherewithal to replace these buses.’
In another matter, the council approved 4-2 the $125,000 in cost overruns for the county road under construction into the YMCA development. The added expense has come from preparing an unstable soil base and a large sinkhole, and relocating utility lines, said Commissioner James Goldman.
Brown said, ‘One hundred twenty five thousand dollars is a lot of money for a cost overrun. Somebody made a mistake.’
‘You can’t just shovel dirt in a sinkhole and pack it down, Alvin,’ Goldman said.
Brown and Rhoads voted against the appropriation, which passed with the four votes of Duley, Mathes, Saulman and Ralph Sherman.
In another matter, the council also approved the budget for 2004 as expected. It took Duley 35 minutes to read through the subtotals and totals in the 151-page document.

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