Fire chief raps Baker School Board

Fire Chief Danny Edwards said the Baker School Board’s recent refusal to give his department five old, run-down school buses has thwarted plans to use them for police and firefighter training.

Edwards also said the refusal is indicative of larger problems in the relationship between his department and the School Board.

“It’s frustrating,” the fire chief said.

Edwards said the School Board’s fleet manager called him more than a month ago and asked if he again wanted some buses to use for emergency response training, as the department did more than a year ago with old Baker buses.

“They asked me; I didn’t ask them,” Edwards said, but added he replied that he would accept them and started thinking about training scenarios in which the buses could be used.

The disposal of the buses came before the School Board on April 9.

Board members discussed whether Superintendent Ulysses Joseph went over board members’ heads to offer the buses to the Fire Department. A suggestion to put the buses up for sale also was made.

Board member Doris Alexander moved to give Joseph the authority to dispose of the buses, with the Fire Department given first priority in their use, but none of the other three members present — board President Shona Boxie, Elaine Davis or Dana Carpenter — would second her motion.

Board member Troy Watson was absent.

An asset disposal request form shows the buses are 1986 to 1991 models with zero value.

Edwards said he planned to turn one or two buses on their sides and let firefighters practice extricating injured passengers from the buses.

He said he had a preliminary discussion with an East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office official about sheriff’s deputies using them to practice responses to an intruder holding hostages on a bus.

Edwards said he would have invited school personnel to participate.

“We could have done a lot of training and education. We try our best to work with them. They don’t want to do much to cooperate with us,” the fire chief said.

“I don’t really care where the buses go because we can’t use them. They’re kind of out of service,” Joseph said.

“If I can work it out, I’m going to try it again.”

Boxie did not return a phone call to her office Friday.

The buses are parked at the rear of Baker High School’s bus parking lot.