Contract approved for new Fish and Wildlife commisioner; $2 million for tolling consultants; and $19k for a propane powered bus

06/10/2014 02:35 PM

Millions of dollars in government payments won approval from lawmakers Tuesday including a contract for the commissioner of the fish and wildlife department, a consultant to market tolls for new Louisville bridges and the purchase of propane-powered school buses for one county.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources hired Gregory Johnson as its new commissioner this spring to replace Jonathan Gassett, who resigned last September amid questions about his management and spending.

Johnson started with a short-term $17,000 contract from May 16 to June 30, which is the end of the current fiscal year. The legislature’s Government Contract Review Committee approved that portion Tuesday. That would work out to be about a $100,000 annual contract.

David Wicker, the department’s legal counsel, said they hoped to move both portions of Johnson’s contract together. The the next contract — for a full year starting July 1 — is expected to be sent to the committee later this week.

“We’re glad to have you, and we hope that diplomatic relations between the agency and the General Assembly will be re-established pretty quickly with ambassadors established,” Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, told Johnson during the meeting.

Yonts had been a critic of the previous commissioner of fish and wildlife, Jonathan Gassett, who resigned the post amid several investigations into his conduct, and he had been working without a valid board or legislative approved contract for nearly two-years.

Tolling Consultants
The committee approved two separate $4 million contracts related to the Louisville bridges project.

Transportation Cabinet officials anticipate a 2-year $4 million contract to be split between Indiana and Kentucky for “tolling consultancy work” on the Ohio River Bridges.

David Talley, Innovative Finance Manager for the Transportation Cabinet, said the firm Computer Aid Incorporated, a Pennsylvania company, is providing support for the hiring of a toll integrator, who is responsible for testing and implementing electronic toll systems. The firm also is responsible for hiring a marketing firm to “educate the local population of Louisville” on the new tolls on the bridges that are supposed to open by the end of 2016.

Talley said a second contract with an Orlando firm, Public Financial Management Inc., probably won’t cost the full $4 million. The firm Talley said was influential with financial infrastructure advice earlier in the Ohio River Bridges project.

Propane Power

The contract review committee also moved forward with the purchase of a second propane-powered bus for Crittenden County Schools.

The Crittenden Board of Education is the only school board in the state trying out the buses in a pilot project, and officials liked the results so much they’re investing in a second propane powered bus.

Laura Beacon, a grant administrator on the project, said that the school district is switching to propane from diesel buses in an effort to reduce pollutants and try to save money.

The buses are more expensive than traditional buses, but the school district has been provided a $19,838 federal grant to go towards the purchase of a new one. Beacon said the bus doesn’t average as many miles per gallon as diesel, but said the bus is still cost efficient.

Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, warned the group to re-check the price of propane per gallon as the fuel has taken a teeter totter track in price over the past year.


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