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Board adopts new plan for turnarounds

A return to the beat system continued to play a role insupervisors’ plans Monday as the board modified the county’s schoolbus turnaround policy and received a vote of confidence from beatsystem supporters.

The new bus turnaround policy, while similar to the old one,clarifies what a turnaround is and changes the county’s approach tothe work.

“We’re keeping the schools involved,” said Bob Allen, boardattorney, about the new policy. “It’s for their benefit.”

In eliminating the road manager’s role, because there’s not onein the beat system, the new policy still requires a landowner,school district transportation director and school board to certifya driveway is a bus turnaround.

The policy calls for repair and maintenance only and states thecounty cannot construct a new private driveway for bus turnaroundpurposes. Also, work cannot be done more than 150 feet from thecenter of a roadway.

Furthermore, since school and transportation officials are in aposition to know conditions of turnarounds, work will not be doneuntil specifically requested by a school district. Work will stillbe at a supervisor’s discretion and turnarounds must be re-approvedyearly.

“Instead of blanket maintenance, it will be specific maintenancewhen requested by a school,” Allen said.

Allen said there was no problem with bus turnarounds, butlooking at the policy was timely with the start of a new schoolyear, a mostly-new board of supervisors and budget issues.

“We were revisiting, for the board’s benefit, what the lawprovides,” Allen said.

District 3 Supervisor Nolan Earl Williamson expected the newpolicy to have an impact on bus turnaround activities.

“I figure it’ll cut down on a lot of them,” Williamson said.

With supervisors under tight beat budgets next year, Williamsonalso expected turnaround activity to be a “big factor.”

“The more money we put out on them, the less we’ll have to putout on the roads,” Williamson said.

District 5 Supervisor Gary Walker focused on safety aspects ofthe turnaround policy. In addition to last-stop-on-the-route rules,the policy also includes a provision that a turnaround could beapproved if safety of bus occupants is a factor.

“I’ll do whatever I can for them, for the kids,” Walker said,mentioning a bus stop in a sharp curve where safety would be aconsideration.

Also Monday, Earl Taylor, Vince Bailey, Charley Evans andCharles Burke appeared before the board to voice their continuedsupport for the county’s return to the beat system next month.

The supporters were instrumental in getting a vote on the beatsystem or unit system on the ballot last year. Voters narrowlyapproved a change from the unit system back to the beat system inlast year’s general election.

Beat system supporters and supervisors have questioned recentpublicity surrounding beat system-related equipment costs and theirrole in a property tax increase that will be seen later thisyear.

A county list of planned equipment purchases shows over $1million in new equipment to be bought and the county paying almost$400,000 in debt service for it and some old equipment still inuse. District 4 Supervisor W.D. “Doug” Moak disputed the totals andsaid the county will be reviewing its totals on alleged beat systemcosts.

“I still say the numbers will be less,” Moak said.

Moak estimated the total would be about $250,000 less than the$1 million figure. With personnel reductions like no road manager,Moak also expected manpower costs would not be any higher.

Purchases to address unit system equipment inadequacies werealso cited.

“Some of that we’d have to buy anyway and has nothing to do withthe beat system,” Moak said, mentioning $104,000 for a potholepatcher, tank and truck in which Districts 3,4 and 5 are sharing incosts.

In another matter impacted by the beat system, District 2Supervisor Bobby J. Watts asked fellow board members to shareequally in the costs of installing two new culverts for an industrylocating in the industrial park. Watts said he did not have budgetnext year for the work.

“We’re talking about big bucks on those big pipes,” Wattssaid.

With taxes generated by industrial park activity, Watts said itwould be only fair for all the districts to share in culvert costsfor that specific area.

County officials said project site access culvert instances,which are provided as incentive for industry location, have beenfew but they are expensive. Watts said the county so far has beenasked for only two culverts.

“As times goes on, it’s going to be more,” Watts said.

Williamson mentioned using county economic development funds forthe culverts and Walker suggested seeking city help for part of thework.

Supervisors agreed to ask city officials for culvert assistanceon the current project and to take culvert costs from an economicdevelopment fund. County Administrator Tillmon Bishop said thebudget may have to be amended later in the year if there are a lotof industrial park culvert purchases.