Independent bus drivers sign contracts with Hamilton Co. school - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

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Independent bus drivers sign contracts with Hamilton Co. school board

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

The debate between the Hamilton County school board and the district's independent bus drivers seems to be resolved.  

During the school board's transportation committee last week, many drivers told Channel 3 they were not happy with the bus contract board members proposed, because some of the details in the contract were not "fair." 

But Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Lee McDade, says more than 50 independent bus drivers have signed contracts this week. He says the remaining contracts should be signed by next week. 

Jim Sneed says he signed his contract Thursday. 

"It's a decent starting contract with the time I've had to deal with it," said Sneed. 

Sneed has owned and operated buses in Hamilton County for 48 years. After a four year hiatus, he says he's ready to return to driving full time. 

"The only thing I missed really in the last four years is the kids. I love the kids," said Sneed. "I had to reapply, had to be drug tested, fingerprinted, and background checked; the whole works." 

Sneed says negotiating contracts with the school board was the most challenging part of the process. 

"To be put under that kind of scrutiny after the record that the Hamilton County contractors has always had is a bit insulting." 

School board officials tell Channel 3 there are two contracts. One for newly hired independent bus drivers and another for the district's 35 long time independent drivers, who are considered classified employees. 

Many of driver's contracts are valid for four years, which is typical in Hamilton County. 

Drivers with more than one route will receive an additional $9,500, instead of benefits. Their seat mileage pay will also match the classified employees. The classified employees will have insurance, but are limited to only one route. 

Both contracts include several penalties. 

Drivers will be fined $20 per day if surveillance cameras and GPS are not installed on new route buses within five days of entering service. All buses are required to have a two-way radio installed to operate a route. If a driver operates a route without a radio, they will be fined $20 per day. Failure to immediately notify the Director of Transportation of an accident will result in a $100 fine, per accident. Failure to turn in required paperwork when due will result in a $10 fine per day for each late document; up to a total of $35 per late document. 

The negotiation process was long and sometimes heated, but drivers say they're looking forward to greeting students at the bus stop.

READ MORE | No agreement yet on Hamilton Co. bus contracts

Sneed says he appreciates the efforts of school board members.

"The board is becoming more educated in things dealing with transportation. They helped us work though it, and I would like to say thanks especially to Rhonda Thurman and the other board members for taking the time to listen and communicate." 

School Board Chairman Dr. Steve Highlander says the board still has to ratify the contract, which should happen at their next scheduled meeting.

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