For Hometown News
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- What was once an aging government surplus bus has received new life, thanks to custom modifications made by the jail inmate work crew.
Talented St. Lucie County Sheriff's garage mechanics and a closely supervised jail inmate work crew recently converted a 21-year-old, 40-foot government surplus bus in an updated, well-equipped jail transport bus, complete with a wheelchair lift.
"We got the Blue Bird diesel-engine bus from government surplus for a $3,000 transfer fee," said Sheriff Ken Mascara, "and we installed a $6,500 wheelchair lift to accommodate handicapped jail inmates. A new bus equipped like this would cost more than $150,000. The Sheriff's office was able to put a jail transport bus into service for a fraction of that amount."
In addition, the bus will save the Sheriff's office money, because it will no longer be necessary to pay a private ambulance service to transport handicapped jail inmates to and from medical appointments and court appearances.
"My goal, and that of my administration, is to find alternatives to using taxpayer's dollars for capital outlay, and the jail bus project is a prime example of that," Sheriff Mascara said.
The bus was found online and staff members traveled to Starke to drive the bus back to Fort Pierce.
The jail crew designed, fabricated and installed security grates on the windows, confinement doors and other security equipment in the interior of the bus, and even modified the seats to accommodate all the equipment.
"This was a complete custom installation," Sheriff Mascara said. "The result was a huge savings to the taxpayer."