School board talks bus purchase

November 21, 2018

Beatrice Public Schools will likely purchase a new activities bus next month after a grant was awarded.

The grant is a result of automaker Volkswagen being involved in a lawsuit over a diesel scandal.

Superintendent Jason Alexander has said the Volkswagon funds were awarded to each state through a grant.

Each state could decide how to use the money, and Nebraska opted to allow schools to apply for funds. BPS received $42,000 to purchase a new bus.

The BPS School Board discussed its options during Monday night’s committee of the whole meeting, where a variety of estimates were presented to the board.

Blue Bird, Thomas and International each submitted proposals for the bus, and a Blue Bird representative brought a bus recently purchased by Falls City to Monday’s meeting for the board to look at.

Estimates from the three companies start at around $85,000, but after including amenities like air conditioning, more comfortable seats and a larger motor, prices reach nearly $160,000.

With amenities, the grant would still leave BPS to pick up around $75,000 of the cost on the higher models, though Alexander said the school district is applying for more grants.

The board can’t wait to find out if additional funds will be available or not as it must approve a purchase at its regular meeting in December to meet deadlines of the Volkswagon grant.

“I want you to know we are applying for another grant,” Alexander said. “We’re finalizing that application hopefully (Tuesday) and submitting it. For financial discussion I don’t want to include that because I don’t know what that’s going to be. It could be for full reimbursement, it could be for not full.”

The current activity bus that will be replaced is a 1998 model with a 54-person capacity.

Board member Lisa Pieper suggested that in addition to the activity bus, the board set up a timeline for replacing other vehicles, as well.

“When I look down through the list we’ve got a number of vehicles that are 10-plus years old with over 100,000 miles,” she said. “I would imagine we’ll be needing to look at replacing some of those vehicles as well… I would like us to have some kind of replacement schedule, knowing that if the funds are there, we’re going to replace these vehicles these years.”

Capacity of the bus depends on what seats the board opts to go with. Freedman activity seats are essentially two bucket seats next to each other on each side of the bus and create a seating capacity of 42.

Blue Bird representative Tyler Cox said capacity could exceed 70 passengers with a standard bench seat, though that’s figuring thee passengers to each seat, a tight ride unless small children are the passengers.

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