Auditor advises buying buses instead of contracting


Harford County could save up to $4 million by owning more school buses rather than hiring the services of private contractors, says County Council Auditor Michael Treherne.

Mr. Treherne, who undertook the review of the Board of #i Education's contracts with bus services in fiscal 1994 at the council's request, gave the results of his analysis at Tuesday's council meeting.

He found that over 12 years, generally considered the life of a school bus, the county could save $3.3 million to $4 million by converting 100 more buses to county ownership.

The county owns 91 buses and contracts out for the services of 294 others.

Of the schools' $11.96 million budget for student transportation vTC services in 1994, $8.95 million went to private bus contractors.

Mr. Treherne said his projections assume that 5 acres to store the buses would be available in the Route 24-U.S. 40 development corridor. His estimate includes about $800,000 for purchase of the land, blacktopping and other necessary


He also said the projections assume the board would have sufficient capital resources at the outset to purchase the vehicles.

Not all routes would be more efficient in an in-house operation, he said, but certainly those in the heavily used development corridor would be. The best arrangement probably would be a combination of private services and in-house buses, he said.

The auditor said his analysis did not address zoning issues or site evaluations that might come into play if the county acquires land for storage. Mr. Treherne said he would make a similar presentation to the board in the next few weeks.

In other business:

* The Rev. Jeffrey D. Wilson, County Council president, delivered his farewell address to the council and a chamber full of friends, relatives and supporters. He is not seeking re-election.

He expressed "sadness of leave-taking," noted the accomplishments of the current council and left his plans for future political office open to interpretation.

"I have given 12 years of my life to public service," he said, referring to his years with the Highland Community Association and Agricultural Task Force as well as five years on the council. "The time has come for me to step back, in order to spend more time with my wife and children and to give consideration to our community's future."

He praised County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann and her staff, with whom he has had a fair share of feuds over the last four years, noting that they shared more "deliberation" than "dissension."

"What we need to underline," he said, "is that there has been incredible agreement about the large lines of the major policy accomplishments during this term."

He cited legislation on farmland preservation, reforestation, adequate public facilities, historic preservation and the ethics code among his accomplishments. Waste disposal, rural development standards and economic energy infusion into rural villages are areas that need more work, Mr. Wilson said.

Calling himself a "populist," he said, "this address is my last word as one servant to my fellow servants in government." At the same time, he said it was not an end to his community involvement: "Though my term of office comes to an end in a few weeks, there is no diminishing of my resolve to serve you." He received a standing ovation at the end of his speech.

* The council unanimously approved an application by the Department of Community Services for a Small Cities Community Development Block Grant to finance the construction of a boys and girls club in Edgewood.

Cheryl Worthington, community services director, said the department would request at least $500,000 from the state Department of Housing and Community Development. The county and/or private sources would match up to 100 percent of the grant, she said.

The youth center would be similar to the Harford County Boys and Girls Club recently dedicated in Aberdeen and would replace the existing Edgewood Youth Center on Cedar Drive.

* The council agreed to hire the firm of Miles & Stockbridge as outside legal counsel to review contracts and advise the county in negotiations with the waste-to-energy facility in Magnolia. The council will pay the firm $20,000 to review contracts and &L; background documents, interview county officials and employees, and follow and advise on federal and state case law.

The incinerator, off U.S. 40 at the Route 152 entrance to Aberdeen Proving Ground, burns county trash to produce steam used to heat buildings at the proving ground.

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