Security cameras recommended for KAT buses

WILLMAR -- A recommendation to put security cameras in the Kandiyohi Area Transit buses was approved Tuesday by the KAT operations board. The cost is estimated at $18,300.

WILLMAR -- A recommendation to put security cameras in the Kandiyohi Area Transit buses was approved Tuesday by the KAT operations board. The cost is estimated at $18,300.

The recommendation will be forwarded to the joint powers board for final approval. The joint powers board, which is made up of members of the Willmar City Council and Kandiyohi County Board, meets Friday morning.

The operations board had initially discussed putting cameras in two or three buses every year to stager the expense. The joint powers board had requested an estimate to equip all nine buses in the KAT fleet.

In November a security camera system from Seon Design, a Canadian company, was installed in a KAT bus for a month-long trial run. Besides a bid from Seon Design, a bid for similar equipment was also obtained from Peart & Associates, a Willmar company.

After reviewing the differences in the equipment offered by the two companies, the board agreed Tuesday that the Seon Design equipment was better suited for transportation security and recommended the purchase of nine units.


The base cost from Seon Design was $15,750. The operations board agreed to purchase an additional feature to provide a Global Positioning System with each unit. That item, plus taxes, will bring the total to an estimated $18,300, said John Groothuis, KAT director. The bid from Peart & Associates, which did not include the GPS feature, was $17,329.

KAT drivers who had the security camera in their buses during the trial period had positive comments about the presence of the equipment, he said. Groothuis will do more research on the company's history before presenting the recommendation to the joint powers board.

If the cameras are approved, Groothuis said the 2006 budget will have to be adjusted to reflect the additional expense. KAT currently has about $250,000 in its reserves, said Groothuis. In an update on the budget, Groothuis said a final $60,000 building payment to the county and fuel expenses that exceeded the budget by $20,000 means KAT spent more in 2005 than expected.

Ridership, which was about 4,000 rides higher in 2005 than in 2004, helped on the revenue side. There were an estimated 114,000 rides in 2005. Groothuis said he had hoped to reach the 120,000 range.

To help recoup expenditures and increase revenue, the board agreed to increase the hourly cost for groups requiring special transportation service. The rate is $40 an hour. If approved by the joint powers board the rate for the remainder of 2006 will be $42.50 an hour and $45 an hour for 2007.

Several local facilities, like the Woodland Centers, use the KAT buses for transporting groups of people. The service was also used by Spicer bar owners to get patrons home safely. That service was suspended in January after no one used buses on New Year's Eve. Groothuis said a public transit system in another community had 140 riders on New Year's Eve. KAT had none. Advertising for the service had been left up to the business owners.

The board will hold a special session this spring to discuss long-term planning for KAT, including looking at expansion options like Sunday morning transportation service.

The board also approved the purchase of a new bus for $61,200. The federal government will provide 80 percent of the cost, or $43,200. Kandiyohi County and the city of Willmar will each contribute $9,000. Any extra costs for exterior decals will be paid for by KAT.


The bus will be delivered late this fall. KAT will sell one of its older buses at that time.

Because of higher pollution emission standards will result in different bus engine designs, it's estimated that the cost to purchase a new bus in 2007 will be about $4,000 higher.

As part of the board's reorganizational meeting, the existing office-holders were re-elected to their positions, including: Mark Mertens - president; Darrel Ruch - vice president; and Kevin Halliday- treasurer.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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