The Capital Area Transit System is preparing to spend some serious money to improve its operations — and its image.

The board will be asked next week to approve purchasing eight new buses at a cost of $450,000 each to replace vehicles in its aging fleet. The agency also is looking to sign a contract capped at $50,000 a year with Baton Rouge firm Covalent Logic for public relations.

When CATS went searching for the firm, it asked for experience with public relations, media planning, marketing and, perhaps most importantly for an agency that has seen more than its share of controversies,“crisis management.”

CATS, while gradually improving service, has faced one crisis after another the past few years since the tax was passed. CATS’ public image meltdown started with former board member Montrell McCaleb, who was accused of using the agency’s money to pay personal bills.

Despite management overhauls, the agency continues to endure chaos as its current CEO Bob Mirabito has gone head-to-head in an angry battle with its union this year that accused him of disrespect and mismanagement and asked him to resign.

CATS received poor feedback twice in recent weeks.

A customer survey showed riders were increasingly dissatisfied with service over the previous year. The agency also got mixed grades from the group Together Baton Rouge, which complained CATS still was lagging in fulfilling commitments to riders to improve services.

At the time, Mirabito said he thought some of the survey results could have been impacted by the wave of bad publicity associated with his own employees picketing the agency.

He also has continued to say the agency’s service quality is affected by its out-of-date fleet, which is prone to breakdowns.

Baker ranked as one of state’s safest cities

Baker made it into the top 10 safest cities in Louisiana for the ninth year in a row, according to an analysis of crime and population data by OnlyInYourState.com, a travel and culture website.

Baker Police Chief Mike Knaps touted the ranking, attributing his city’s low crime rate to “proactive patrol, community relations” and “spending time in the schools reaching out to the children before an encounter with law enforcement.”

Cities with populations above 2,000 were considered for the compilation, which used official violent crime numbers submitted to the FBI to calculate a per-capita crime rate. Baker was ranked ninth, after DeQuincy — which was first — followed by Blanchard, Golden Meadow, Berwick, Haughton, Breaux Bridge, Harahan and Mandeville, in that order.

As Knaps pointed out, only one Louisiana city — Mandeville — was considered safer than Baker among towns with a population of more than 10,000 people.

Angola warden headed for Justice Hall of Fame

Outspoken and longtime Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola Warden Burl Cain will be inducted into the Louisiana Justice Hall of Fame later this month, the penitentiary announced Friday.

During Cain’s 20-year tenure, “Angola has become one of the safest, most progressive maximum security prisons in the nation,” according to a program for the induction ceremony.

Recently, some Louisiana residents have called for the warden to run for governor. Last week, Cain coyly remarked that he doesn’t have the money to fund a campaign but that he had thought about seeking the office and continues to consider it.

Other 2015 inductees include Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Jeff Hughes, who wrote a blistering opinion criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling, and former Caddo Parish District Attorney Charles Rex Scott, who died earlier this year.

Inductees were selected by a committee chosen by the board of directors of the Louisiana State Penitentiary Museum Foundation. The museum will open an exhibit about the inductees Aug. 28. The formal induction will be held that evening at Boudreaux’s restaurant in Baton Rouge.

Other 2015 inductees include Fabian Blache, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police; Emma Devillier, head of the Attorney General’s Office Sexual Predator Unit; New Orleans Family Justice Center Executive Director Mary Claire Landry; Terrebonne Parish DA Joseph Waltz; and Lafourche Parish Sheriff Craig Webre.

Information and tickets for the ceremony are available by calling the museum at (225) 655-2592.

Advocate staff writers Rebekah Allen, Maya Lau and Steve Hardy contributed to this article.