Contract unresolved for bus stop arm cameras

Four months after bus stop arm cameras were announced to soon be installed on Gwinnett County school buses, a contract remains unresolved and in limbo.

District officials touted the agreement as a proactive step toward safety, but cameras have yet to be installed on buses.

The bid award agreement between Gwinnett County Public Schools and Redflex Traffic Systems was signed by CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks on July 23 after he announced the deal at the regular Gwinnett County Board of Education meeting on July 18.

Looking to catch and punish motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses, Wilbanks said at the BOE meeting that, “It’s alarming the number of people who do it. It’s against the law, and it’s an unsafe situation.”

The program is violator-funded and Wilbanks has said first offenders would pay $300, second-time violators would pay $500 and third-time offenders $750.

During a pilot run last year, GCPS used four buses that recorded 444 violations, and received reports of 1,903 violations from drivers who were not driving buses with cameras.

The Redflex system is called The Student Guardian safety camera system, and when the bus stop arm is activated, the system automatically detects vehicles passing the stopped school bus, which requires no driver involvement. It also records a close-up of the license plate and a broader image of the violation itself.

Georgia law states that vehicles traveling in both directions must stop when a school bus activates its stop arm on a two-lane road or a multi-lane road with no median or barrier. Vehicles traveling in the same direction as a school bus must always stop, but motorists traveling in the opposite direction can proceed (with caution) when there is an unpaved median or concrete barrier separating the opposing lanes.

In a press release on July 31, Redflex officials said GCPS “plans to initiate the program with the installation of 100 school buses by Labor Day. It expects to outfit up to 40 percent of its school bus fleet later in the school year.”

GCPS operates 1,900 school buses that transport more than 126,000 students twice a day.

After the bid was awarded, the company that lost out on the bid, American Traffic Solutions, filed a protest for the district to review how the bid was awarded. Redflex was previously involved in a bribery investigation in Chicago that The Chicago Tribune reported centered on Redflex paying for 17 vacation trips for a former city transportation official that oversaw the contract.

Gwinnett County BOE members have said they were not briefed on the bribery investigation before the July 18 meeting when they awarded the bid.

In September, Wilbanks said at the regular BOE meeting that, “We have reviewed that thoroughly. We do not believe there is anything that would disqualify the bidder.”

He added that the contract would move forward with Redflex.

But GCPS spokeswoman Sloan Roach and Redflex spokesperson Jody Ryan each said last week that they’re waiting on the contract to be finalized. Roach said she did not have a timeline for when the contract would be completed.

“We’re very excited about this opportunity and look forward to implementing Gwinnett’s student safety initiative as soon as possible,” Ryan said.