Guam Bus Issues Raised At Legislature Oversight Hearing

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Public Works says high floodwaters causing damage to buses

By Cameron Miculka

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Nov. 7, 2013) – About 13 Department of Public Works (DPW) buses can't be used to carry schoolchildren throughout the island due to mechanical issues.

The department's busing woes were addressed at an oversight hearing called by Sen. Mike San Nicolas, D-Dededo, who chairs the Legislature's committee on ground transportation.

The hearing was initially intended for a discussion about how busing was affecting schools in the island's south, but also focused on the thinning bus fleet at Public Works.

San Nicolas noted that the department started with 123 buses when the public school year started, but was now down to 110 buses.

Public Works Director Carl Dominguez said the department had lost four or five buses when drivers drove them through high water, damaging the buses' undercarriages.

"How did that happen?" asked San Nicolas "Are our bus drivers not trained to not drive through that?"

Frank Taitano, who supervises busing operations at Public Works, said that while drivers are trained, it doesn't take a lot to damage the fiberglass fans underneath the buses.

"When it hits the water, it'll shatter the fan," he said. "(Drivers) are trained, but we have to get the kids through here."

Legislative Speaker Judith Won Pat, D-Inarajan, also told the department's representatives that Guam's flooding problems are "not something new here," and that should have been taken into account when procuring new buses.

Taitano also noted that Public Works policy is for buses to drive on the right side of the road for safety reasons, and that's where puddles form in roads.

Dominguez yesterday in a phone interview said that he's tasked Taitano to talk with bus supervisors about having drivers exercise more caution when driving through flooded areas.

"Every bus counts," he said noting that water damage to the bottom of the bus can cost $1,500 for a broken radiator and can put the bus out of commission for six to eight weeks.

Dominguez also said that of the 13 buses needing repairs, only one bus is broken down permanently.

He said at the hearing that bus was involved in a recent accident and mechanics can't repair the damage it sustained.

However, he noted that the bus's engine can be transferred to another bus needing an engine and its brand-new upholstery in the interior can also be transferred.

San Nicolas recommended the department build up its fleet so that even if a bus is broken down, there are several others available to take its place.

"We cannot continue to lose these fleet assets to operation mishaps," he said. "Losing a bus, that results in a second trip, a third trip, a school schedule change."

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