School board approves vehicles

Published 12:07 am Friday, September 22, 2017

NATCHEZ — The Natchez-Adams School Board Tuesday unanimously authorized $120,000 for the purchase of five new maintenance vehicles.

On Wednesday, Operations Manager Larnell Ford placed an order for four Ford F150s and one Ford Transit cargo van, using approximately $105,000 of the funds.

The vehicles, he said, would be used to bus skilled craftsmen from one school to another.

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The last time the district purchased new maintenance vehicles, Ford said, was nearly 10 years ago.

The district bought surplus vehicles in 2009, he said, but of the four that were purchased, two needed new engines and other repairs.

“We had problems with them; on an average, the maintenance department’s vehicles are 20 years old,” Ford said. “It’s a safety issue as well. We’re driving vehicles where lines are rotting and you could lose your brakes.”

In fact, the brakes on one vehicle went out while carrying a driver nearly three years ago, he said. Ford said the driver pulled the emergency brake, hit a curb and then a pillar of a bridge on U.S. 61 North. Though the driver was not injured, Ford said it was the tipping point for him to request new vehicles.

“It wasn’t a major impact, but it could have been,” Ford said. “We had been trying before then, but that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Ford first petitioned the board for new vehicles in 2011, but said there had never been enough funding to make a purchase.

What convinced the board? Lives, he said.

“We have people whose lives are being put in danger,” Ford said. “Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.”

Ford said buying new vehicles instead of using state surplus would cut down on repair costs in the long run.

Ford said he hopes the school board can put back the same amount of money next year, so he can have 10 fully functioning vehicles in 2018.

“That’s my vision,” he said. “Whether it happens or not is depending on if those funds are available.”

Maintenance supervisor Isaac Davis Jr. said these vehicles are necessary to keeping the various schools in the district properly functioning.

At the school board meeting, President Amos James Jr. said he wanted to be sure the old vehicles were removed from the district’s fleet.

The seven vehicles the district currently owns will be auctioned, Ford said, hopefully by the end of this year.

Ford said he is happy to have the new vehicles because they increase the safety of his maintenance workers.

“These are necessities,” he said. “These are not luxuries.”