Public hearing held for school bus debacle - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Public hearing held for school bus debacle

by Michele Catahay

Guam - The Department of Public Works' bus situation was the topic of discussion during a public hearing last night. Yigo resident George Salas says his kids have to wait hours at the bus stops until they're picked up for school. He says the buses are forced to make several trips, and as such, is jeopardizing the safety of these students.

"I'm sorry about this, but I've heard too many excuses already. The first one I heard was the tires. Well let's fix the tires. The next thing is that a lot of things just broke down. Mr. Chairman, I know you know the '5 Ps' - Proper Planning Prevents Proper Performance. I think everyone was concentrating on whether the schools were going to open on time. I think they forgot one thing: the buses that are going to transport all these students," said Salas.

During a public hearing on the bus situation held at the Guam Legislature Friday night, DPW Director Andy Leon Guerrero says they're forced with a situation where buses are over 20 years old.  "We're kind of dealt with a hand that we pretty much have to deal.  Now how do we actually solve that problem or actually bring it down to a minimum? I think that what we need to do first and foremost is increase our budget for maintenance. Right now, we average about $90,000 to $100,000 annually budgeted for maintenance," he stated.

Leon Guerrero says in order to purchase 400 tires annually, DPW has to fork our $112,000. Those costs won't even cover mechanics. He says a recent protest on tires had prevented DPW from changing out tires on buses. While a request was submitted by DPW to the General Services Agency back in February, the bid went out in April. The protest caused a further delay. Superintendent of Transportation and Maintenance Paul Cepeda says more work needs to be done to get some buses up and running.

"Right now, where we stand with the 36 buses waiting for parts," he announced, "requisitions have been submitted for those parts. Some of them are pending price quotations before we can send them to GSA for requisition. Now coming back to the tires, we have 16 buses that need tires but those are also down with major repairs."

Chairman on Public Works Senator Tom Ada further questioned DPW officials why they haven't asked for more money from the Legislature and the governor. Leon Guerrero said they tried to work with what they had since the school year was just around the corner. Ada further questioned whether DPW can consider using transit buses or have bus services outsourced until parts come in.

Superintendent of Bus Operations Franklin Taitano says they're following federal guidelines, explaining, "For the transit buses, if we're going to use that for the school children to transport them, it needs to be yellow in color and it needs to have the flashing red lights and stop sign."

The hearing was prompted after DPW allowed buses with expired registration tags to pick up children. As a result of these issues, the Attorney General's Office told DPW all buses needed to pass inspections. On Wednesday and Thursday, a mass inspection took place by an independent inspector.

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