WILKES-BARRE — You could call it the bus to nowhere.
In 2006, Wilkes-Barre city officials paid $9,000 for a used school bus with plans to use it to transport seasonal workers to job sites and, if necessary, to assist in mass evacuations during disasters.
Nearly seven years later, the bus has yet to be used. It sits parked at the Department of Public Works building off North Pennsylvania Avenue, surrounded by overgrown weeds and shrubs.
The bus, purchased from DeNaples Auto Sales in Dunmore, is among two vehicles the city bought in 2006 that it later determined could not be registered. It also purchased a 2006 Chevrolet Cargo Van for $18,000 from United Sanitation, a company owned by LAG Towing contractor Leo Glodzik III, but returned it after it could not obtain the title.
Administrative Coordinator Drew McLaughlin said the city also determined the van, which was to be used by the health department and animal control, did not meet specifications. The entire purchase price of the van was refunded by Glodzik.
But the city never attempted to get its money back for the bus, which was purchased in June 2006, as it believed it could some day obtain the title, McLaughlin said.
He couldn’t explain why, nearly seven years later, that has not happened.
Frank Sorick, president of the Wilkes-Barre Taxpayers’ Association and frequent critic of city spending, said the situation exemplifies the city’s penchant for wasting taxpayers’ money.
“It never ceases to amaze me,” said Sorick. “We spend money on something. We find out it’s not of use. We toss it in storage and hang on to it until God knows when. If you or I bought something that was not of value, we would immediately ask for our money back. In the case of city government they just park it and say it is what it is.”
McLaughlin could not provide specific details regarding the problem with transferring the title of the bus. He said he was unable to obtain that information, noting several city employees who might have been involved with the transaction, including John Koval, finance director, and Ron Trimble, purchasing director, no longer work for the city.
“I know there were attempts to resolve this in the past. Most recently last year, prior to the surplus equipment auction,” McLaughlin said in an email. “I could not speak to how many times there were attempts to resolve it. Given the passage of time and employee departures who had more direct roles in this, I would not be able to give details on that.”
In an interview last week, Trimble, who recently retired, said the bus purchase was among eight or 10 vehicles that were purchased in 2006. The idea behind acquiring the bus was a good thing “in principle,” he said, but the city could never get it registered due to the title problems.
“We have problems with the high-rises,” said Trimble. “If we need to evacuate, this was an easy way to transport people as well as our own men who we could take to job sites and drop them off. The bus didn’t work for us because there is no title for it.”
The city has tried to sell the vehicle at auction, but was unable to do so because of the title issues, he said.
The bus is registered to Pace Construction Inc. in Pittston, McLaughlin said. The city previously has spoken with officials from Pace, who said they could not locate paperwork relating to the bus, he said.
Officials recently contacted Pace again in hopes of resolving the matter, he said. “They told us they are searching their records for any titles or paperwork,” McLaughlin said. “If nothing is found, the purchasing director told me that a title could be reissued in Pace’s name and then signed over to DeNaples Auto Parts and then transferred to the city, which would give us proper title.”