TAMPA — Establishing a plan for replacing aging school buses, exploring alternative fuel options and fixing a driver shortage are some of the top priorities Hillsborough County School Board members have for their new transportation consultant.
Board members also want the Maryland-based School Bus Consultants to conduct a review of the district’s entire transportation department.
“As much as purchasing buses is a priority, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have an outside source look inside and tell us what we may not be seeing,” board member Cindy Stuart said.
Board members held a workshop Tuesday to discuss what they are looking for from the consultant. The board is scheduled to vote Feb. 11 on a contract that will outline the cost and parameters of the company’s review.
The district has budgeted $3 million this year to spend on 28 school buses as part of the district’s five-year plan. The board decided to hire an independent consultant after voting down two recommendations for bus purchases by district staff.
School Bus Consultants was the only respondent to a district advertisement for a consulting company, with a proposal that would not exceed $79,800.
“I think we have two things going on here: a very urgent need for buses and a grave concern for what the operation is doing, how it can be improved,” board member Candy Olson said.
Board member Stacy White said he doesn’t think an outside consultant is necessary to help decide where to purchase school buses.
“With all due respect, I don’t think we need a consulting firm to make that simple decision,” he said, adding that one of his top priorities is establishing a “vision for the future” by exploring alternative fuels.
Thomas Platt, one of the company’s managers, said he will be able to give the board a progress report on his assessment of the transportation department during a workshop Feb. 18. Some factors he will look at include fleet management, staff training and staff size.