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U-46 Board updated on bus replacement plan

By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 was given an overview of the district’s age and obsolescence plan for bus replacement as well as the administrative recommendation going forward at a meeting on Monday, March 19.
  Currently the district owns 351 buses, 184 large and 167 small, and the recommendation is to trade in 74 buses and purchase 74 keeping the net total the same. The age and obsolescence plan was first created in 1985 for the district.
  Jeffrey Prowell, director of transportation, said “the bones of the plan really are the same as they’ve been in the past with a couple of changes” with one of those changes coming in the objectives which now states that the district plans to not have large diesel powered or small buses with more than 150,000 miles or older than 11 years, which previously was 10 years.
  Other objectives in the plan include to “maintain efficiency and safety and operate buses which are mechanically and structurally sound,” balance “purchases so a similar number of buses are purchased each year,” include “consideration for efficiencies” and modify “plan annually as needed.”
  Another change is additional language which states: “Buses scheduled for replacement may be retained based on operating condition and mileage as deemed appropriate by the  Director of Transportation.”
  “I think the age and obsolescence plan should be a guide, but just because we say a bus is going to be replaced 10 years from now it may or may not need to be replaced,” Prowell said.
  Included in the replacement recommendation are purchasing 37 pre-owned large buses, which hold between 72 and 77 passengers, as well as the purchase of five pre-owned wheelchair buses. The combined savings for purchasing pre-owned as opposed to new is $783,795 according to the plan.
  Prowell said the pre-owned buses would come from area school districts which leased the buses for one or two years and all of the buses have under 25,000 miles and include a “three-year warranty on the engine and transmission.”
  The remaining 32 buses to be replaced would be new 2019 model year vehicles all being 51-passenger buses, 10 of which would include a wheelchair lift.
  Prowell said the replacement plan would increase the number of wheelchair buses in the district by eight as he said there were more wheelchair routes this past year than there were wheelchair buses.
  Board member Traci Ellis asked why some districts were getting rid of buses in a year or two to which Prowell said “it’s my understanding that this is fairly common” in some districts.
  Board member Jeanette Ward asked if it was cheaper to lease rather than purchase and Jeff King, deputy superintendent of operations, said: “The short answer to your question is no.”
  King said he worked previously in a district that leased buses “there were some reasons why it was beneficial for that particular district,” the main reason being the district did not have its own mechanics.
  For U-46, “it’s much more beneficially to keep the piece of equipment, and that’s incorporating the maintenance cost,” King said.
  Donna Smith, the board’ president, asked if the newer model buses will cause any issues for the district’s maintenance staff and Prowell said the buses to be purchased are “very similar to the buses that we already have.”





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