Funding sought by county for daily bus washes

By Michael Riconda

NEW CITY – New legislation bound for the County Legislature aims to improve safety standards for buses by making cleaning a daily occurrence, but could also compound maintenance costs several times their current value.

The resolution, which was approved by the county’s Planning and Public Works Committee and Budget & Finance Committee last week and will be considered at tonight’s legislative meeting, would require all vehicles in Rockland County’s bus fleet to undergo daily cleaning. The fleet is currently cleaned once every week.

Initially, it was suggested by the legislature that the money would come from the coffers of the Federal Transportation Association. However, the resolution itself contains no such language.

Funding became a matter of some debate between the legislature and executive branches. County Executive Ed Day expressed skepticism of the resolution, explaining to the Rockland County Times that the funding mechanism has yet to be determined but was likely to come from local taxes. Day argued the costs to be borne by Brega Transportation Co., which services the county’s bus routes, instead.

On Wednesday, another option might have emerged. According to Legislator Jay Hood, about $300,000 in non-allocated, non-local share funds were identified which might be used to support the bus washes.

The legislation was spurred in part by a fire on a bus run by Brega Transportation Corp. The fire, which occurred in Pearl River on February 8, forced an evacuation but resulted in no injuries. It is believed the fire, which was explicitly mentioned in the resolution, began in the right rear wheel well.

Expenses associated with bus cleaning are by no means cheap. According to the county’s contract with Brega Transportation Corp., which took over county bus operations earlier this year, each bus costs $45 for a single cleaning.

Taking that figure into account, cleaning the county’s 62 bus fleet would cost about $1,018,350 per year. The change from weekly to daily cleaning could mean the five-year contract with Brega would require $4.6 million in cleaning expenses alone.

Now that non-taxpayer funding has been located and the legislature sees the bill as necessary for public safety, Hood declared he would support the resolution.

“If it’s something that everybody thinks needs to be done, I’m going to have to support it,” Hood said. “It would not come out of the local taxpayers.”

The safety issue is the one which seems to be driving most legislative votes for the resolution. Legislator Frank Sparaco similarly supports the measure, arguing daily washes are already an industry standard.

“Every other municipality washes their buses once a day,” Sparaco stated. “It’s the right thing to do.”