School bus cameras to be tested

By JEAN L. McCORKLE jmccorkle@daily-review.com

Three school buses in St. Mary Parish will be equipped with exterior cameras in a pilot program to monitor and deter drivers who illegally pass the buses.
The three cameras will record for 60 days and a report to the St. Mary Parish School Board by Redflex Group as to how much of a problem exists in the parish will follow, board members decided during their monthly meeting Thursday.
If the board were to decide enough drivers pose a threat to students getting on or off buses, Redflex would provide the camera system at no upfront cost. Instead, Redflex gets a portion of ticket proceeds, Southeast Regional Sales Manager Charlie Buckels said.
If the program is implemented, the school system will have to approach the various jurisdictions for enforcement. Infractions would be reviewed by a law enforcement official certified for this type of equipment, in this case the likely choice would be the deputy who acts as resource officer for the school system, board members said.
When a violator is identified, a ticket is printed by the company and mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle, similar to how traffic control cameras operate, Buckles said.
The board voted to approve the pilot program with one dissenting vote, Mike Taylor of Berwick, who said there were just too many outstanding questions about the program.
In other action during Thursday’s meeting, board members:
—Awarded bids for three projects that, together, ran $107,345 over their budgets. Bernhard Mechanical Contractors was the low bidder on the boiler projects at Bayou Vista and Hattie Watts elementaries and the kitchen hood replacement at M.E. Norman Elementary. All three projects are scheduled to be completed this summer.
—Approved renewals on building and contents, equipment breakdown and worker’s compensation insurances. All of the quotes were nearly identical to amounts paid the previous year.
—Learned the group health insurance request for proposals may have a chance of gaining new quotes. Board consultant James Perez said that there are only a handful of companies that handle large, fully insured groups like the school system. Because of the system’s high claims history, those companies often decline to even offer a quote. In fact, he said, only one quote has been received in the last four years aside from annual renewal quotes from Blue Cross. This year, the school system is experiencing a much lower loss ratio, so Perez said he has hope that proposals will be received by the April 1 deadline.

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