By Betsy Dolan
Fort Bend ISD will spend almost $2M on 20 new school buses after a unanimous vote by the Board of Trustees at their December meeting.
The purchase includes 16 regular education buses which seat 71 students and four special education buses that come fully equipped with wheel-chair lifts and seat 53 students.
The move is the first in a series of school bus purchases over the next few years as the district phases out the oldest buses in its fleet. The district has plans to purchase 122 new buses over the next four years.
During the discussion, Trustee Dave Rosenthal suggested that the district explore converting its fleet to compressed natural gas (CNG) because supplies are plentiful, fuel costs would be more stable and there would be less pollution.
“I think it would be a win-win for everyone,” Rosenthal said. “The City of Los Angeles is moving toward CNG. Why not school districts?”
Max Cleaver, the district’s Chief Auxillary Services Officer, agreed that converting to CNG is something the district should consider but he expressed concerns about the cost of setting up a natural gas fueling station which could be a three year process.
“Ideally we’d apply for grants to help fund something like this,” Cleaver said. “But grants take time. The CNG buses will cost more up front, possible more to maintain and the fueling station set up will also be expensive.”
Administration officials said they would conduct a feasibility study and present it to the board for consideration before purchasing the next fleet of school buses.
Cleaver told the Trustees that there are currently 466 buses in the district’s fleet and that the buses run an average of 15 years. Thirty one buses have over 140,000 miles and while they are still serviceable and road worthy it is time for them to be replaced, Cleaver said. The older buses will be sold at auction.
Last year, Fort Bend ISD’s Transportation Department logged a total of 5,632,560 miles between its various routes. The department has 351 regular route buses, 101 special education route buses, and 14 activity buses.
The buses are being paid for by $1.3 million in transportation funds from the 2007 Bond. The remaining $500,000 was allocated from the district’s operating budget.
The trustees also agreed to the purchase of two box trucks and a dump truck which is used for large landscaping and construction projects. Cleaver told the Trustees that the mileage on the district’s older box trucks and dump truck were well over 230,000 miles and praised the districts mechanics for keeping the vehicles running so long.