Two Flagler School Buses Stolen in July Are Recovered, But District Just Bought Replacements
FlaglerLive | November 6, 2013
At 9:15 the night of July 27, Flagler County school buses No. 20604 and 20605 were driven out of the bus depot behind Flagler Palm Coast High School, stolen. The thieves had clipped the lock on the chain-link gate, driven in with a whitish sedan, then driven out with the two buses. The theft was not discovered until Aug. 8, when the two buses were scheduled for maintenance.
Over the weekend, two buses that had been stolen from a school yard in South Georgia were recovered at the Georgia-Florida football game at EverBank Field in Jacksonville. And today, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office announced that the two buses stolen from Flagler in July were recovered in Gainesville as part of what appears to be a theft ring operating in North Florida.
But the two 84-seat Bluebird buses stolen from Flagler, each valued at around $60,000 (they are 2007 buses, and would have been valued at a third more had they been new), no longer belong to the school district, which processed the insurance paperwork for them within weeks of the theft.
Tuesday evening, the Flagler County School Board approved an $812,700 purchase of seven buses from Matthews Buses Inc., including two replacements for the stolen buses. The district is spending $560,000 in capital dollars budgeted for the buses, and $252,700 from insurance recovery proceeds. The stolen buses will likely be sold at auction by the insurance consortium, though the district may yet bid on them, Mike Judd, the district’s facilities director, said Wednesday evening.
“They were good buses so if they’re still in good condition there’s certainly that possibility,” Judd said, especially since the new buses may take time before delivery, as they’re being built to the district’s specifications. “We have enough spare buses that we aren’t in critical need of those buses right now.” The district has not sent staff to Gainesville to look the buses over, as the buses are being processed by law enforcement.
The new buses will be Thomases rather than Bluebirds, and will be slightly smaller—71 passengers rather than 84. They include a bus for disabled students.
Flagler County investigators learned of the recovery of the stolen buses over the weekend, with the discovery of other stolen buses at the game providing a crucial tip-off.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrested Alphonso Bernard Rock on Monday in connection with the matter. Rock owns 95 South Tours and Transportation in Jacksonville. He was charged with theft of a motor vehicle less than $100,000. WTLV in Jacksonville is reporting that Rock is claiming to be a victim himself, according to his attorney, Taylor Casey.
“He has busses that he has paid good money, valuable money out of his pocket for,” Casey told the television station. “Those busses have now been returned to the rightful owners. So not only is my client out the buses he paid for also out the money invested in those.” The report adds that deputies found three more stolen buses in Rock’s depot, and a fourth bus which could not be identified due to the VIN being removed.
Following Rock’s arrest, Flagler investigators learned that the two buses stolen from the school district here were near I-75 in Gainesville, on a grassy field across from a Red Roof Inn, where local authorities located them, along with a bus stolen from Duval County.
Back at the bus depot behind FPC, security has been beefed up. “We have increased both visual and physical security,” Judd said, not wanting to give away the specifics.