Wheaton school makes effort to clean up air pollution

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Grant could provide district with $22,000 for bus replacement

The Wheaton school district is making strides to do its part in cleaning up air pollution by replacing a bus that emits high levels of emissions.

Through Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Volkswagen Trust Grant, Wheaton school district could receive up to $22,000 to help with its efforts.

In August 2018, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources air program released a request for applications for school bus replacement projects. Eligible applicants included school bus owners with buses operating in Missouri. The department received 67 applications from 64 school districts and three bus contractors for a total of 137 bus replacements.

Lance Massey, Wheaton school district superintendent, said the district applied by Sept. 14 and received notification of its selection on Oct. 2.

“The Volkswagen Trust Grant is trying to clean up air pollution,” Massey said. “So, if you had buses that met the criteria that were not new, in terms of emissions, those buses qualify.”

Massey said that the Wheaton school district has two buses that met those qualifications.

“Bus number seven is, by our estimation, the poorer of the two buses that we have that meet those qualifications,” Massey said.

According to Massey, with the Volkswagen Trust Grant, the district will cover 75 percent of the cost of the new bus, and the grant will cover 25 percent of the cost up to $22,000.

“We could have applied for up to three buses,” Massey said. “However, where we are with district funds, I didn’t feel comfortable, knowing what buses cost, to apply for both buses and not be able to afford it.”

Massey said the district applied for the one bus, but the other bus is still safe and passes all the highway patrol inspections.

“Bus number seven passed all its inspections as well,” Massey said. “It’s not that they aren’t safe buses, they just don’t meet some of those emission standards.”

According to Massey, the point of replacing the buses is to get buses with high levels of emissions off of the road, and one of the stipulations of the grant is to render the replaced bus unusable.

“Bus number seven does have some value to it,” Massey said. “In the past, when we weren’t dealing with any grant situations, we bid the old buses out to sell.”

Massey said in that situation the district got about $2,500 for the old bus.

“In no way is that close to the $22,000 that we could receive by using this grant,” Massey said. “They require that a three-inch hole be put in the block, and the frame of the bus be cut in half.”

According to Massey, the district received a federal EPA grant two years ago and did this same thing with two buses at that time.

“As a district, we will salvage items off of the bus like tires or wheels, because we can use those things on buses that we keep,” he said.

Massey said the district then sold the buses for scrap metal, and received about half of what it would have by selling them as running diesels.

“It makes more sense for this district to go this route,” Massey said. “To have more of the costs covered by the grant, and we are doing good for the environment.”

According to Massey, at this point the district isn’t sure how much it will cost to cover the 75 percent of the new bus.

“We will go through a bid process,” Massey said. “We will solicit bids for buses, and we are in the process of writing out what we are wanting in the new bus.”

Massey said the district will submit those proposals to the bus companies, and when those bids come back in, the board will have a chance to look at the bids and vote.

“Depending on how quickly we get the bids back, we are hoping to present those bids to the board in December or January to make the approval,” Massey said.

According to Massey, the district has to have a new bus delivered, and the old bus salvaged by June 30, 2019.

“As far as getting the old bus salvaged,” Massey said. “We used a salvage yard in Neosho the last time we had to do this. We have to drive the bus to the salvage yard to avoid a towing bill, and we have to make sure it gets done.”

According to Massey, this is the first time the district has received the grant through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. “The last time we got a Federal grant through EPA,” Massey said. “Both grants were similar, but the difference is that last time we had to replace the bus with one in the exact same weight class, and we were guaranteed to received exactly $20,000 for the new bus rather than a 25 percent or up to $22,000 we will get this time.

“We may try to use it as a trip bus because it is good to put your best foot forward when traveling to other schools. Also, the new buses are usually the safest for those longer trips.”

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