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October 14, 2016

Cameras will catch illegal passing of school buses

The school system plans to work with a company that will install cameras, send tickets and keep 60 percent of fines collected.
Rather than stop behind me and adhere to the school bus’s flashing red lights, the minivan comes around me on my right, on the shoulder . . . . I was dumbfounded . . . . This can’t happen fast enough.
— Supervisor Rick Gerhardt
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Staff Journalist
Drivers who illegally pass stopped Fauquier school buses face $250 fines.

The board of supervisors Thursday unanimously approved a county ordinance, giving the school system authority to install cameras on buses and collect the fines.

Cedar Run District’s supervisor witnessed a violation just hours before the vote.

“I was driving down (Route) 605,” headed east, near Warrenton, Rick Gerhardt recalled in an interview. “I’m coming down that hill, in the opposite direction of a school bus. The bus driver had on the flashing red lights, I mean the full stop.”

Vehicles in both lanes waited as students got off the bus, Mr. Gerhardt said.

“And, I notice in my rear view mirror, a minivan,” he said. “Rather than stop behind me and adhere to the school bus’s flashing red lights, the minivan comes around me on my right, on the shoulder. And, in passing, put up their hand as if to wave. I was dumbfounded. First time I’ve experienced anything like that.”

Mr. Gerhart called it “ironic” that he witnessed a vehicle passing a stopped school bus the same day the board took up the matter.

“This can’t happen fast enough,” he told fellow supervisors.

The school system plans to hire a company that would install, operate and maintain the video system, Transportation Director Cheryl Fisher said.

The company would keep 60 percent of fines and the school division would get 40 percent, according to Ms. Fisher. The schools would use the funds for transportation safety, she said.

The company would send video of each alleged violation to the sheriff’s office, Ms. Fisher said. If the sheriff’s office concurs, the company would send a summons to the violator.

Ms. Fisher declined to identify the company in negotiations to provide the service. But she added, “it’s possible to have some, if not all” 179 buses equipped with cameras before the school term ends in May.

Violations “happen everywhere” in Fauquier but more at bus stops along “larger roadways – (Routes) 17, 28, 29,” Ms. Fisher said.

Buses that serve such routes will get the cameras first, she said.

Arlington County last year outfitted its fleet with cameras. During a 19-day period, it identified 216 violators, WTOP reported.

In other matters Thursday, the supervisors:

• Approved a multimillion-dollar incentives package for a French-based “cloud” computer hosting company that plans to establish a data center and its North American headquarters at Vint Hill near New Baltimore.

OVH initially plans to invest $47 million in the project, creating 54 jobs. The jobs will pay an average $58,333 a year, plus benefits, according to the company and county officials.

As the company grows, the tax abatement could be worth up to $3 million over five years, according to Fauquier Economic Development Director Miles Friedman.

OVH effectively would pay no business license, machinery and tools, personal property or real estate taxes to Fauquier. 

The package also includes a $1-million county contribution toward installation of “dark fiber” data cable. “Dark fiber” refers to dedicated, private cable that could be sold or leased to companies.

The investment would give Fauquier up to 28 percent ownership of that broadband capacity.

• Extended the lease for the business accelerator/incubator at 8452 Renalds Ave. in Marshall. It will expire Sept. 30, 2017. Fauquier will pay $2,000 per month, down $1,000 from the current lease. Tenants lease space from the county to cover the costs.

• Approved a proposed county code ordinance to clarify that all animals seized by law enforcement or humane investigators in Fauquier must be housed in and cared for by the Fauquier SPCA shelter near Casanova during court proceedings. A bond also must be posted to cover boarding expenses.

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