BOE Votes To Support Propane Buses

Published: October 11, 2018 at 09:50 am


With a mixed vote at its meeting on October 2, the Board of Education approved amending its contract with All-Star Transportation to allow the remaining diesel buses in the company’s Newtown fleet to be replaced with propane buses in the third year of the contract, 2019-2020, rather than the fourth year.

The district is currently in the second year of the contract with the transportation company. District Business Director Ron Bienkowski explained All-Star Transportation approached the district regarding the change.

For the 2017-18 budget year, the board approved replacing 25 percent of its fleet with propane-powered vehicles to have a full propane fleet within four budget years, as previously reported by The Newtown Bee.

“These will be newer buses replacing 7-year-old buses for the district,” said Mr Bienkowski, adding that All-Star also proposed updating the Global Positioning System (GPS) used on the buses.

The new GPS, he said, would have enhancements from the current system. Enhancements would include providing locations for all of the vehicles, rider status, driver performance data, alerts if buses are not operated safely or when maintenance is needed, and remote diagnostics.

“They even have the capability of sending a text or e-mail if the drivers are idling, speeding, or in the wrong place,” Mr Bienkowski explained.

The new buses would have a four-camera system. Mr Bienkowski said the current buses have a two-camera system. The added cameras allow capturing a driver’s driving skills, and if there is an accident, there would be a documented record of what the bus driver saw at the front of the bus. The entire interior of the buses would also be captured on the cameras.

“There will be fuel savings because propane is cheaper than diesel fuel. We estimate that will be about $6,400,” said Mr Bienkowski. “There will be additional tax revenue to the town of about $9,600.”

Mr Bienkowski also spoke about environmental benefits from switching from diesel to propane buses.

“The primary reason for this contract amendment is to be clear about the changes to protect the Board of Education,” he said, “and also to protect our fuel costs for this year.”

Board of Education members asked a range of questions before voting on the amendment to the contract.

“We wouldn’t be bringing this to you if we didn’t think it was a benefit to the district,” said Mr Bienkowski.

Board of Education member Andrew Clure questioned whether propane buses are better than diesel buses, and he noted the cost for propane seems to be increasing. He asked if the district could be “getting hurt” by the decision. After board member Dan Delia asked if there would be an additional cost to taxpayers, Mr Bienkowski said there will be revenue generated by the switch for taxpayers.

The motion to support the amendment passed with four board members —Board of Education Chair Michelle Embree Ku, Vice Chair Rebekah Harriman-Stites, and members Debbie Leidlein and John Vouros — voting in favor of the motion. Mr Clure and Mr Delia voted against the motion, and board Secretary Dan Cruson, Jr abstained from voting.

Also at the meeting, the Board of Education heard a presentation by the district’s Facilities Director Gino Faiella about options for cooling different areas of school buildings without air conditioning. The school board decided to have its facilities committee look at the options for schools to report back to the board at a later time.

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