Holidays Without Power

DETROIT – Van Dyke Public Schools had to cancel school today. The students thrilled. The parents, on edge the district realizing it's already cash strapped existence is going to get more so.

It was quite the surprise early this morning when school bus drivers went to start their 20 buses to ferry many of the district's 3,100 students to school when they turned the key and nothing happened. Turns out, 15 of the buses in the district's fenced in bus yard were without their batteries. Overnight someone meticulously, taking considerable time, used bolt cutters to snip through the district's chain link fence. They opened up the battery boxes and using wrenches and ratchets unscrewed the connections and loaded 45 batteries, weighing close to 50 pounds a piece, into a fairly sizable vehicle and hauled them all away. The value of the batteries is roughly $4,000. Yet, it's likely the thieves will take the batteries to recycling companies and receive about $15 bucks a piece. No one saw a thing even though the lot is lit.

The district had to cancel classes, which certainly made the children happy, but the parents obviously weren't. There are always the frustrating machinations of day care when there's an unexpected day off. Since parents know how the insurance game works, they're not happy about the possibility of any request for them to pony up more tax dollars to fund the increased insurance rates they'll likely face after the district's insurance company pays this claim.

It took district mechanics much of the day to buy replacement batteries and install them to get the fleet ready for school on Monday.

The district's classrooms will be open until next Thursday. Warren police thought they had a lead and went down river to a recycling station but it turned out a dead end. It's likely these calm, cool and patient thieves won't get caught. The district will weight whether to buy security cameras for its bus lot at a School Committee meeting on Monday night. The cash strapped district will have to weigh whether that expense and heightened security at the bus yard is affordable and what will have to be sacrificed in the process.

This theft is a warning to us all. This was not a prank by mischievous seniors trying to become high school legends. No, this was a group of what you might call professional thieves who are in the mode of taking pretty much any commodity, copper, steel, batteries; nailed down or otherwise, for quick cash. This is going to mean heightened security measures region wide. This is a threat to the life we have known here in Michigan. The decade long economic depression Michigan's slogged through is now taking a desperate turn. It's going to require all of us to be more vigilant, not only to secure our own belongings, but the common belongings that greatly matter to our and our children's futures. This is a powerless feeling during the holiday season, to say the least.

About the Author:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.