ByThe Enon Eagle recently sat down with Greenon Local Superintendent Daniel Bennett and Executive Assistant Megan Anthony to discuss the changes to the district’s transportation department over the last several months. During our conversation, Anthony and Bennett provided details on speculation within the community regarding buses, personnel changes and other topics associated with the transportation department.

In July of 2013 the board approved an agreement with the Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center (CTC) for the purchase of the five CTC buses which included a provision for providing transportation of CTC students. According to documents obtained by a public records request and confirmed during our meeting, the district paid $20,500 for the fleet of aging buses. Four of the buses were valued from $1,500 to $2,500. The fifth bus was valued at the time of sale at $12,000 because it was a 2003 model. The remaining buses were from the 1990’s.

The Eagle asked Bennett and Anthony about the condition of the buses and their availability for transporting students. Ms. Anthony confirmed later via e-mail that three of the buses are currently in service. Two are being used for CTC purposes with the third serving as a “sub bus when one of the regular buses is unavailable”. The Eagle asked about the bus that had been noticed by residents sitting in front of the maintenance facility during our conversation. Superintendent Bennett stated that this bus was the property of the CTC and had been returned to them. Bennett and Anthony also confirmed that none of the purchased buses have been “scrapped” at this time.

As part of the agreement, Greeon Local would need to return the buses to CTC at the end of the one year agreement should it not be renewed. Greenon Local is responsible for the insurance and maintenance of the fleet. According to Bennett and Anthony, the district estimates income of around $30,000 for the services provided if the agreement extends beyond the first year.

Personnel in the transportation department also saw many changes this school year. Lead mechanic Shane Myer left the district last fall for other employment and was followed by transportation supervisor Patty Brown who retired.

The district began a search to fill three positions at the transportation offices. Heather Votaw was hired in September as Bus Secretary. According to the job description provided by the district, Ms. Votaw will assist the transportation supervisor and lead mechanic in all aspects of the program.

The district replaced the lead mechanic with Mr. Howard Brentlinger. Brentlinger is a Greenon graduate. He completed the Diesel Technology program at the University of Northwestern Ohio in 2006. Prior to his employment with Greenon Local, Mr. Brentlinger was employed by Bethel Township as a Road Maintenance Laborer. Superintendent Bennett explained that “I hire the best people” at the best price. According to Megan Anthony, the district took into consideration when making the decision to hire a new mechanic the amount of salary the district could offer and other qualifications. Bennett explained that a team of two bus drivers, the interim mechanic, district maintenance supervisor, Elmer Beard, Brad McKee and the superintendent interviewed the candidates for the position. When asked about the district hiring relatives of current employees, Bennett indicated that the district had hired a “good mechanic.”

Enon Village Council member Elmer Beard was hired for the Transportation Supervisor position with the district. Mr. Beard has experience with the department and served as a bus driver in years past. The district again took into consideration the compensation package available when making an employment offer for this position according to the superintendent.

As part of the public records request, the Eagle noted that the district spent in excess of $31,000 for outside repairs this year following the departure of Mr. Myers. In looking over prior years, the Eagle noted no outside mechanical work had been listed on the accounting.

Ms. Anthony followed up on our questions with information on the need for using a local garage for repairs. She reported that the staff at the transportation department “felt that there were buses in need of immediate repair work”. At the time of the decision, the district had one interim mechanic on staff. The outside vendor was used according to Anthony to assure that the work “was completed in a timely manner”. Three of the invoices available in the records request were for CTC buses according to Anthony. Following the employment of Brentlinger in January, Anthony noted that only one bus has gone to an outside vendor for repair due to a problem occurring from a recent repair made by this vendor.

Bennett and Anthony were forthcoming in answering all of the questions posed by the Enon Eagle. As part of the request, records regarding metal taken to local scrap yards were addressed. Bennett and Anthony explained that a protocol which was established with former district treasurer Ryan Jenkins appears not to have been followed during the time period of receipts provided. The district has established that John McCarty, the district maintenance supervisor now handles all “scrapping” with the funds received being returned to the district treasurer for redistribution to the departments.

The Eagle also asked Ms. Anthony and Mr. Bennett about receipts provided from the transportation department that showed a number of purchases to outside vendors by the previous employees in the department. They were also asked about the last time that OAPSE employees received any form of compensation increase. According to Anthony, the members did receive a single “step increase” in 2013-14. Although many could have received additional step increases, only one step was approved. Anthony also reported that the union members have agreed to a four year cost of living freeze as well as concessions in their health care coverage.

Bennett explained that the expenses that appear on the receipts provided to the Eagle are not a practice by the district. Items on the receipts appear to indicate gift items and meal expenses. Ms. Anthony explained that the receipts in question were found during the recent transition at the transportation offices and have been provided to the Auditor of the State of Ohio for “investigation”. Bennett further stated that the district would not approve items purchased as gifts. We are “keeping dollars for the kids and the classrooms” said Bennett. The superintendent also noted that potlucks are encouraged and that he has purchased the main dish on occasion using his personal funds since joining the district.

Overall, the superintendent and his assistant explained all of the community questions during their interview with the Enon Eagle. They stressed that the district has hired the best individuals to fill the vacancies in the transportation department. Policies and procedures are in place and the contract for the CTC appears to be a plus for both boards and is expected to continue.