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New fleet of buses set to take to the streets this fall

Most Franklin County students will have a brand new ride to and from school this fall as 44 new propane buses began to arrive last week.

The Franklin County Board of Education approved financing for the new buses in March. 22 buses arrived last week, representing half of the $3,506,939.92 purchase.

Franklin County Superintendent of Education Greg Hamilton said the buses are environmentally and cost-friendly, with cleaner air emissions, less maintenance costs and propane fuel, which is cheaper than diesel.

Each bus cost $89,703, but after two $5,000 rebates per bus, the final cost was $79,703. Hamilton said the rebate monies went toward payment of principal on the loan with Valley State Bank, allowing a $440,000 payment toward the principal.

We received a big savings from Valley State Bank with the low interest rate they offered us on the 10-year financing. That will save us more than $101,000,” Hamilton said.

Fleet funding from the State of Alabama is based on the age of the buses owned by the school system. There is no funding sent for buses over 10 years of age. Of Franklin County Schools' 67 buses, 49 are on fleet renewal (less than 10 years old).

Hamilton credited former assistant superintendent Donald Borden with researching propane buses to determine whether the purchase would provide savings to the system.

Mr. Borden was instrumental in looking at other systems that have purchased propane buses and calculating the anticipated savings in fuel costs and general maintenance. I appreciate his efforts along with the rest of the bus shop staff in this project,” Hamilton said.

Borden said part of his research was visiting other school districts that had purchased propane buses.

We visited Tuscumbia City Schools and they've used them a few years now and spoke very highly of the buses. The mechanics love them and they're cheaper on maintenance and parts,” Borden said.

Another advantage of the new buses is the factory-installed camera system. Hamilton said when the new school year begins, all buses operating on regular routes will be equipped with working cameras.

10' x 24' pads were installed at Belgreen, Tharptown and Vina Schools. The propane tanks used for fueling the new buses will be placed on these pads. At Phil Campbell and Red Bay, the tanks will be installed on asphalt. Each tank will have a crash barrier around it. East Franklin Junior High will not have a tank as that school will continue to use diesel buses, Hamilton said.

In addition to the two $5,000 rebates per bus, the system will receive state funding per gallon of propane fuel it purchases and federal funding of $.50 per gallon to encourage systems to go green.

We felt with the sale of the old buses and the big savings on the fuel and maintenance we are coming out ahead,” Hamilton said.


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