COVINGTON, Ga. — The Newton County Board of Education approved its annual contract with Morgan Fleet Services Inc. in Monroe on Nov. 19 following a prior discussion regarding third-party liability.
Board member Eddie Johnson, District 2, questioned the liability of the provided services during the Nov. 12 work session, saying he "never supported" the contract, which has been in place since Nov. 14, 2016. He believed a contract should only be made when the county is incapable of performing a function, and the county could perform the fleet inspections in-house for a lower cost.
“I’ve never supported it and will never support it because we are contracted out. We can do it cheaper in-house than we can do outside. The only reason we contract — I say we, for the most part — is when we are incapable of performing a function," he said. "This is a task that should be done inside."
Johnson also expressed concerns of liability, asking that if the company incorrectly inspected a bus, "What's the liability?"
A proper answer was not given in response to the third party liability at the work session, however, NCSS Chief of Operations Michael Barr stood at the podium during the meeting with answers to Johnson's concerns.
Morgan Fleet Services Inc. is "contractually obligated to perform the inspections according to the standards as defined by the North American Standard Out of Service Criteria as established by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance," he said.
In addition, Barr said the company complies with rules set forth by the state school board and conducts a "rigorous" inspection of the buses consisting of more than 350 item checks.
"The company maintains the appropriate level of general liability insurance associated with this work," he said.
Johnson had no response or follow-up questions.
The board approved the contract renewal 4-1, with Johnson opposing, for the value of $103,950.
The six-digit value was proposed to the board by Barr, during the work session, who explained the inspections will cost the county $55 per bus, per inspection, and the county owns 210 buses. To meet the requirements set forth by the state, the county must perform nine inspections each school year — or every 20 school days.
The board also unanimously approved to upgrade the school system's security cameras during the meeting.
The upgrades will be purchased from Nichols Security Commercial of Covington, Venture Netcomm Inc. of Loganville and Byteworks of Duluth.
The total cost of the upgrades is $1,151,509.92 — Nichols Security Commercial, contracted by the NCSS, will install the security cameras and serves for $966,737.30; Venture Netcom Inc., contracted by the NCSS, will install the cabling for $108,240; and Byteworks, contracted by the state, will install the switches for $76,532.62.
The decision to upgrade the security camera system was part of the ongoing security improvements throughout the school system, according to Barr. The funds for the upgrades will come from two grants provided by the state — one for $690,000 ($30,000 per school) and a second for $153,597.
The next board work session will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, with a full meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17.