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Former mechanic raises safety concerns with OKCPS buses

KOKH/FILE

OKCPS has spent $18 million on new buses and transportation since 2003, but some vehicles didn’t last long and were sold for peanuts at auction. A former district mechanic has now come forward claiming the school district didn’t take care of the public’s investment.

Since 2003 OKCPS has been purchasing new buses regularly about every three to four years when MAPS for Kids buses started to arrive. MAPS for KIDS was included in the city’s original MAPS penny sales tax plan. MAPS for Kids provided the district with 160 buses purchased for about $60,000 each. About a quarter of the MAPS buses are currently in service. 114 buses were sold for an average of $650 each.

“(OKCPS) could've fixed them. They could've fixed (the buses) easily. We were told to leave them alone,” says a whistleblower. The former employee worked at the OKCPS bus garage as a lead mechanic for nearly 20 years. FOX 25 has agreed not to reveal his identity since the employee fears retaliation from the district.

Our source came to FOX 25 after a previous investigation which revealed widespread safety issues for the OKCPS fleet.

"Kids’ safety is the biggest thing. It needs to be brought up and told,” said the source.

The former employee said he wants the public to know “how unsafe the buses really are and how they’re not being taken care of”.

He also claims district employees were “penciling in” mandatory safety inspections. In Oklahoma, districts can inspect their own buses, which little to no oversight. District officials denied our requests for an on-camera interview regarding the employee’s allegations, condition of the fleet, or the buses which were sold at auction.

“I think they didn't want to mess with (the old buses) because new buses were coming,” the source said.

After reviewing available district records, FOX 25 found OKCPS had retired a group of buses early, again sold for a small fraction of the initial value. Some of the retired buses had only 4 or 5 years of service, many with about 100,000 miles, some with less than 50,000 miles.

“I mean there were simple things going on with (the buses) and (they) wouldn't fix them,” said the source.

OKCPS provided the following statement:

"The safety of all OKCPS students and staff is our top priority. While we will not respond to anonymous allegations from a former disgruntled employee, we can reassure our community that the buses in question were sold at auction earlier than anticipated because the repairs needed to keep them in service were cost-prohibitive after we experienced persistent mechanical problems causing the buses to be unreliable, or a combination of these two factors. OKCPS is committed to being stewards of the resources that our community has entrusted to us."

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