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Bethlehem Area School District to equip buses with new technology

By Stephen Althouse, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 22 2013 10:26:27 PM CDT

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

By a unanimous vote, the Bethlehem Area School District’s Board of Directors approved spending $150,000 to buy an electronic fleet management system for 120 school buses during Monday night’s meeting.

“This is a win-win,” said Board Member William Burkhardt prior to the vote.

Other board members were less enthusiastic about the substantial cost, but in the end all fell in line behind the recommendation of Superintendent Joseph Roy to purchase the system, which in theory will provide about $33,000 in savings annually for the district, according to the administration’s comments Monday night.

The Zonar Electronic Fleet Management System automates and verifies the pre and post-trip vehicle inspection process and provides high-definition GPS that allows web-based access to real-time vehicle location information. The fleet of 120 district busses logs more than 1.3 million miles annually.

It was that return on investment that most interested Board Member Irene Follweiler, who initially during discussion said she was “inclined” to second a motion made by Board Member Eugene McKeon to table the issue to investigate the matter further.

However, after administrations officials disseminated the areas they thought they could amass savings – by cutting minutes off each of the busses’ routes and providing a more efficient troubleshooting system for potential mechanical defects, not to mention improved safety for drivers and students – the potential opposition disappeared like socks in the dryer.

The current proposed 2013-2014 BASD budget includes $150,000 for the purchase of the system. Due to the relatively mild winter just concluded, there is a projected savings in the district’s natural gas budget which can be spent to fund the Zonar system out of the current year’s budget.

The board was told by administrators that there was just “enough time” to purchase and install the system prior to the end of the current fiscal year, which is June 30, and remove the expense from the proposed 2013-2014 budget, but they had to act now to hit that timeline.

In other business Monday night, the board approved all Human Resources recommendations made by the administration, which included naming Jennifer Hilton as the principal of the Farmersville Elementary School, effective July 1. Hilton is currently an assistant principal at Nitschmann Middle School. She will be paid $97,541 a year as the elementary school principal. The district has a total of 16 elementary schools.