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Fowler Bus Co. applied for and received an Environmental Protection Agency grant that will help fund upgrades to each bus in the fleet.
Guidelines for the 2009-2010 school year indicate diesel fuel and urea will be injected in the catalytic converter to make the air cleaner.
“We applied for it, and got it,” said Donnie Fowler when he addressed the Richmond R-XVI School Board during the monthly board meeting held May 12. “We’ll be putting the new parts on over the summer. Our exhaust will be cleaner than what’s going into it.”
The last jump in E.P.A. standards was in 2007.
Fowler requested a longer contract extension than the one-year indicated in the new contract with the district. Wanting to change just one area in the contract, Fowler said he wants the age of the bus eliminated.
“In the contract, there’s a clause that a bus can’t be over 15 years old. A truck engine will run 300,000 to 400,000 miles,” said Fowler. “Our older buses are our better ones. The oldest one is 1993 and it was new when we bought it. It’s been well taken care of and does 17 miles a day on Hill Street. We don’t send it out on trips, although I wouldn’t have a problem with doing that.”
Under the age limitation of the contract, buses built before 1994 would have to be replaced. Bus inspections are conducted two times each year by the Missouri Highway Patrol. Fowler said two 1994 buses will be replaced, having traveled up and down the extremely rough, rural roads in the district. He also said the Special Education bus will go too.
“All buses made after 1977 have the same safety and street standards,” Fowler continued. “A new bus costs $80,000 now. When I started, it was much cheaper. I’m suggesting that you removed items P and 4, the age of the buses. This is the first contract that has mentioned age in it. We do have a 1993 backup bus that we’ve had to use once. They’re starting to refurbish buses. Some districts have 1980s buses.”
The board voted to table the matter, regarding the amendment to eliminate the age of the bus from the contract, to the next meeting to allow further discussion. Board member Connie Taylor requested all board members receive a copy of the former contract for review.
Fowler also brought up concern about the way students damage buses, particularly the seat covers.
“I have a 2007 bus I use for the Vo-Tech kids. Today, I have 10 seats that have been cut since Christmas. It costs $37 per seat cover to replace them. With 10 seats, that’s nearly $400,” said Fowler.
Board President Chris Minnick asked if the students have to pay for the new seat covers and if assigned seats would help know which students were doing it.
“When we catch them, they have to pay,” Fowler replied. “All buses have assigned seats, but you have to catch them. When you give the students a nice ride, it’s frustrating when this happens.”