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Thieves Target Johnson County Buses

Last updated on Friday, May 18, 2012

(FRANKLIN) - Johnson County’s public transportation service almost came to a halt, with about half of its fleet out of service because of thieves. And it’s the second time in as many months that it has happened.

Erin Murphy reports that Access Johnson County public transit system needed help after catalytic converters were stolen from their buses - incapacitating them. But local body shops stepped up quickly to get them back on the road.

"We called all three of them and said, 'We need those vehicles now,' and they said, 'No problem.' By the time we get here they'll be done," said Becky Allen, transportation director for Access.

The decision was simple, said Jim Hronopoulos, owner of Franklin Muffler & Brakes.
"Fourteen-15 vehicles and no trucks, no buses, and no movements, so we just kind of jumped in and said, 'What can we do to get you back up and running as quickly as possible?'" he said.

His business fixed five Access buses, but it wasn't an easy job. Each bus took about four hours to fix, but it wasn't just the time that was a problem.

"Supplies were the biggest issue. You don't anticipate that many all at once, so once we knew what we were getting into, we figured, well, we'll get this many going. And we were happy to help," Hronopoulos said.

Now the federally funded transportation service has to come up with money they don't have: $7,000 out of pocket for the insurance deductible.

It takes a lot of money and a lot of time to repair after the easy crime, Hronopoulos said.
"They come in with a saw, they just chop it right here and right here, drop that piece out - two swipes. If they're underneath the car for more than 10 minutes, that would be amazing," he said.

Those that helped didn't think twice about spending the extra time to get the buses back on the road.

"How can you not help them? They're a great bunch of people, and if you get to know them they're the real heroes here," Hronopoulos said.

Access also wants to spend money to install a security system. If you would like to help you can donate to any Heartland Community Bank branch.

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