They’re here! Shelton officials get first look at new propane school bus
All 60 propane buses that will be used to transport students to and from Shelton schools in the upcoming school year have been delivered.
On Thursday, school administrators and BOE members had a chance to take a ride on one of the city-owned, propane-powered buses. It was used to take them back and forth from the central office to Shelton Intermediate School so they could take a tour of the summer school program.
“Now we know there’s actually a bus,” joked School Supt. Freeman Burr when the propane bus pulled into the central office parking lot. “And when it’s a bus with Mickey Mantle’s number, everything is good.”
The bus used for the trip was No. 7, the same number worn by New York Yankee baseball great Mickey Mantle.
‘Powered by propane’
The bus looked like any other new, yellow-colored school bus, with the exception of a logo on the side that says “Powered by Propane” and the words “Liquefied Petroleum Gas” printed next to the fuel tank.
(Story continues below)
Click below to see more photos of the new buses:
Burr said while it the new buses may not look different, they don’t use gasoline and they have state-of-the-art Roush engines. “There’s some giddy-up here,” he said.
The new buses also have built-in security camera systems.
The 60 buses are being kept at a facility in Seymour while they are serviced, inspected and registered. The facility is owned by All-Star Transportation, the company that has been the bus service contractor for the Shelton Public Schools. All-Star is being replaced in the new school year by Landmark Student Transportation, a competing company.
Once registered, the 60 buses will be moved to the Shelton school bus yard on Riverdale Avenue.
Burr said the bus inspections, done through the state Department of Motor Vehicles, could begin as soon as late this week.
The new school year in Shelton will start on Tuesday, Sept. 3.
Saving on fuel costs
Mark Holden, BOE chairman, was among those who checked out the new propane bus. “It’s been many years since I’ve been on one of these,” he said with a laugh, as he stepped inside the bus.
Holden said using propane will save money. “They are supposed to be much more cost effective to run — and that’s encouraging,” he said. “Anything we can do to get a bigger bang for the buck is good for Shelton taxpayers.”
The city purchased the buses as a way to try to save money on school transportation costs, including on fuel and service provider costs (drivers and routes), although some skeptics have questioned how substantial the savings will be in the end.
Cost was $5.5 million for 60 buses
The city bought 47 buses that seat 77 passengers, seven buses that seat 47 passengers, and six buses that seat 30 passengers.
The purchase cost about $5.5 million. The buses were manufactured by Blue Bird in the United States.
Mayor Mark Lauretti is confident having the city directly buy and own the buses will make sense financially as well as environmentally. “We’re going to try to catch all the incentives available,” he said.
School systems usually get their buses through the contract with the outside bus service provider, so the buses usually are not owned by the municipality or education system.
Fuel provider being selected
City and school officials have been finalizing selection of a propane fuel provider, who will build a fueling station at the bus yard.
A temporary fueling facility likely will be constructed first because a permanent fuel station should take about two months to build, according to Lauretti.
Lauretti said officials talked to seven potential propane providers, conducting interviews and receiving cost proposals. The city now is down to two finalists, he said Friday.
“We’re learning a lot,” Lauretti said of the process.
Resident raises FOI concern
At a recent Board of Aldermen meeting, Judson Crawford, a Democratic Board of Apportionment and Taxation member, raised questions about the Republican-controlled Board of Aldermen recently meeting in executive session to discuss the propane fueling contract for the new school buses.
Crawford said the reason for meeting behind closed doors doesn’t appear to comply with state Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.
He also said, as required by the City Charter, the municipal purchasing agent has failed to provide a written recommendation stating it would be “impractical” to pursue the propane fueling contract through the formal bidding process. The aldermen have voted to waive the bidding process.
“I’m not going to drop this,” said Crawford, adding he may file a formal FOI complaint on the matter.
Crawford, who is running for alderman as a Democrat, also was present on Thursday to get a look at the new propane bus at the BOE central office.