Keeping children safe was on the minds of Glen Cove City Council members at a pre-council meeting on June 14. The topic of discussion was the addition of a photographic violation monitoring system on school buses.
The city would like to hire Bus Patrol America to install and monitor the cameras, which would be installed in buses’ stop arms. Mayor Pam Panzenbeck said it would be a win for everyone.
Bus Patrol America “will joinin a contract, and there will be no cost to the city,” Panzenbeck said. But the Board of Education would have to approve the cameras, she added, which would capture vehicle infractions, including vehicles that go around stopped school buses while children are getting on or off.
Schools Superintendent Maria Rianna said she had spoken to board trustees, and they supported the proposal. “Anything that helps to ensure the safety of our students, I’m all for,” she said.
Ideally, the revenue from violators’ tickets would be shared, with Bus Patrol receiving 45 percent and the city 55 percent. The city, Panzenbeck said, would manage the program.
City Councilwoman Danielle Fugazy Scagliola said the school district is ready to move forward, and the city has its own traffic court. But there is a problem that’s holding everything up. “Nassau County wants some of the money generated from the tickets,” she said. “If anyone should get the money, it should be Glen Cove and the school district. This is a money grab by the county.”
Last week, the county officials held a meeting with several municipalities, Glen Cove City Attorney Tip Henderson said, which is when it first became evident that they wanted to have a hand in the ticketing.
“Everyone is trying to get their arms around this,” he said.
Nassau County enacted a local law in 2019, under then County Executive Laura Curran, that would have facilitated the installation and operation of such systems on school buses owned or operated by school districts. “Nassau County has 56 independent school districts that run approximately 3,300 buses per school day across multiple routes in the county, and has more than 200,000 students enrolled in K through 12 education,” Curran wrote in a September 2020 news release. “According to the state education department, pupil transportation department, youngest students ages 4 to 8 are most susceptible to school bus fatalities because of their smaller stature, which makes them more difficult for bus drivers and motorists to see …”
The monitoring system was supposed to be implemented in 2021, and be in operation until Dec. 1, 2024. But when Curran lost her re-election bid last November, the legislation stalled.
“We have the program in place,” County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton said. “But the county has been lax in getting it going.”
DeRiggi-Whitton said that a city or town has the right to implement a camera monitoring system itself if it sets it up unassisted. “I don’t think the county should take a cut if they aren’t instituting the program,” she said.
She noted a portion of the local law that she believes would allow Glen Cove to manage its own camera system. It states, “The county shall not enter into an agreement with any city school district wholly contained within a city.”
“So, (the) Nassau County Traffic & Parking Violations Agency, which operates under the control and direction of the county executive, should not have jurisdiction over matters excluded by the General Municipal Law,” DeRiggi-Whitton said.
But Henderson disagreed. He said that the county TPVA does have jurisdiction. “If there isn’t (such an agency), then the court handles it,” he said. “But TPVA exists, so it doesn’t look like Glen Cove can adjudicate the tickets.”
In order for the city to do so, he added, it might have to appeal to Albany for legislative approval, which, he said, is a long process.
Chris Boyle, County Executive Bruce Blakeman’s spokesman, said the county was working on an agreement with municipalities. “The county is currently in talks with the multiple stakeholders (the municipalities) which are involved in this process,” Boyle said, “and will have an announcement to make in the near future.”
Boyle didn’t share an answer from Blakeman that the Herald asked during a phone call as to whether the county executive was taking into consideration the municipal law passed during the Curran administration, or whether Glen Cove, which has its own police force and court, could manage the ticketing process without the county’s help.
“We are looking into seeing if we can do this ourselves,” Panzenbeck said. “We want our own little bureau. This is a safety issue. I see people pass school buses all the time.”
Fugazy Scagliola said she was hopeful. “Most of the council feel like I do,” she said. “Nassau County is swooping in and taking the money. There is a way for us to keep that money.”