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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Turanchik will pitch propane school buses in Hillsborough

The Hillsborough County school district is weeks, at the very least, from upgrading its transportation system. When we last left the School Board, members were awaiting a five-year plan and a bus purchase proposal from Superintendent MaryEllen Elia.

But that timetable isn't working for Ed Turanchik.

The attorney and former Hillsborough County Commissioner, who now represents a Blue Bird school bus distributor, announced a news conference Thursday at 10 a.m. to present what he calls "an unsolicited proposal" to provide the district with 350 buses.

The backstory:

Hillsborough was preparing to enter a financing agreement so it could buy buses from Thomas Built, the second of the state's three permitted manufacturers, nearly a year ago. The plan came up for a board vote on July 30. But Turanchik made board members aware of price differences between Thomas Built, which district staff wanted to name as Hillsborough's brand; and Blue Bird.

It was all downhill from there.

The board asked staff for a better proposal. Staff came back on Aug. 13 with a plan to buy 28 Blue Bird buses. The board found that proposal was flawed as well.

Board members voted to hire a consultant. While that process was under way, there was a whisteblower complaint about a wide range of problems in the transportation department, dozens of focus group and town hall meetings, and the consultant ultimately delivered a harsh assessment of the department and its bus fleet. Oh, and the transportation chief quit.

Elia delivered a preliminary plan of action on May 14 and said she'll ask approval on June 10 to buy 100 buses.

She didn't specify what brand.Turanchik's "Hillsborough Green Bus Team," as he calls it, will unveil details of its proposal at 10 a.m. in the law offices of Akerman LLP, 401 E. Jackson Street, in downtown Tampa.

Why "Green?" This plan is about propane autogas buses that would be offered under a lease-to-own arrangement with fueling stations and guaranteed fuel prices.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 4:36pm]

    

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