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Kids’ costly damage to bus seats repaired

Oak Harbor School District’s Director of Transportation Francis Bagarella places a new cover on a bus seat.  - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor School District’s Director of Transportation Francis Bagarella places a new cover on a bus seat.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

Oak Harbor School District’s Director of Transportation Francis Bagarella is faced with an unexpected task this summer. Upon inspecting the district’s 50 buses he noticed an unfortunate trend. More and more bus seats were covered in brown repair tape and many had fallen victim to vandalism. So while other people are enjoying their vacations, Bagarella is busy refurbishing bus seats.

“They’ve been neglected over the years. There’s natural wear and tear, but then there’s the vandalism,” Bagarella said. “This year it just seems like there was a lot more damage. They really look bad.”

As of Wednesday, July 28, Bagarella had logged nearly 80 hours repairing seat covers, and he was only about halfway through the project. Along with the traditional gum and candy wrappers stuck between the seats, Bagarella has found large holes where students have ripped into them with pens and other objects in addition to permanent marker graffiti.

Bagarella said it’s disappointing that the buses get ripped apart, especially when a lot of the damage is caused on purpose. He said he always tries to ensure taxpayers’ money is being used responsibly, and he wishes they weren’t covering such expenses.

“The covers are not cheap,” he said. In total, the replacements will cost between $4,000 and $5,000, money which could’ve gone toward other projects.

Maintenance is important to the district considering the price of a new bus is around $133,000. Bagarella said as long as a bus is well-maintained it can be driven for 25 years or more.

“My hope is that the children will respect that and keep them looking nice to save mom and dad’s tax dollars,” he said.

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