New contract may bring propane buses

By next year, students may be arriving at school in buses that run on propane fuel.

The city and Board of Education are working together toward a new bus transportation contract. The city would buy 60 propane-fueled buses from All-Staar Transportation and lease the buses back to the company. All-Star would then have a contract with the schools to provide transportation.

At last Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting, Finance Director Allan Cameron received approval from members to negotiate a contract with All-Star.

The mayor has talked to the Herald before about his interest in propane-fueled buses, since the cost of propane is dramatically lower than the cost of diesel fuel.

“I talked to the mayor Saturday evening about the storm and we also had a conversation about buses,” Superintendent Freeman Burr said last Wednesday. “He is committed to moving forward.”

Cameron said the city would not have to pay sales tax or registration under the lease agreement and the schools would have significantly lower fuel costs and maintenance costs.

“We start off with 60 brand-new buses, all propane fuel,” Cameron said.

Cameron said they talked to other school districts, including one in Arlington, Texas, that have done the same. Response has been overwhelmingly positive, Cameron said, and one official in Texas said he would do it again in a heartbeat.

The contract could be for seven years, after which the city would sell the buses back to All-Star and request a new fleet, Cameron said.

Right now, the cost of propane is about $1.15 a gallon, and unlike for diesel, the price of propane can be locked in for several years.

The new buses, built with the propane engine in front, are “purpose-built” buses and not retrofitted diesel engines.

The new contract would also keep the board’s proposed budget from increasing by about $349,000 for transportation.

Members of the board gave a positive response to the plan and supported negotiations.

“I think you guys did a great job,” board member Jim Orazietti said of the proposal.