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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 8, 2010

BKW board adopts $365K bus prop

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — The Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board approved a bus proposition late last month, to trade four decade-old buses for five newer ones, with an added cost not to exceed $365,000. The purchase will go on the ballot for the May 18 budget vote.

The proposition passed by a 4-to-1 vote, with board member Michelle Fusco casting the dissenting vote.

The district looks to acquire two 66-passenger buses, two 28-passenger buses, and one wheelchair-accessible bus. Of the total cost, $200,000 would be covered by funds from the district’s transportation reserve, which currently holds $500,000, and the remaining $165,000 would be bonded over five years.

The 66-passenger buses run on diesel fuel, the rest on gasoline.

“With our transportation aid, which is about 71 percent, the total local share would be about $54,000,” BKW Business Official Kevin Callagy told the school board.

Asked why the district would have to bond for $165,000, given the 71-percent aid payment, Callagy said this week, “The state aid is paid back over a five-year period of time. So, we have the bonds for five years to minimize the impact on each budget year going forward.”

Callagy provided the school board with details on the four vehicles being replaced: a 2001 sixty-six-passenger bus, which has driven 108,000 miles; a 2001 wheelchair-accessible bus, 137,000 miles; a 2000 twenty-two-passenger bus, 139,000 miles; and a 1999 twenty-two-passenger bus, 166,000 miles.

Last year, a proposition to purchase three 66-passenger buses and two Chevrolet Suburbans for $368,000 passed with 72-percent approval.

School board member Helen Lounsbury questioned the need for the latest bus proposition.

“Generally, once buses are getting to 10 years old, the district is looking to replace them,” Callagy said. “That’s pretty much the lifespan of the buses in terms of serving districts.”

Lounsbury asked if this was because the buses would not pass inspection after 10 years of use. David Clark, who works at the BKW bus garage, aimed to provide the board with some answers.

Of the New York State Department of Transportation, Clark said, “Ten years, and they don’t like to see them — it doesn’t mean they won’t pass them, but they don’t like to see them. Ten years in our environment, they’re done…without putting excessive money into them. And even then, they don’t last,” he said of the buses.

Clark went on, “Any inspector we’ve ever had says, ‘You guys have the worst corrosion here out of any operators we do…They salt nightly, whether we need it or not; we don’t really have a washing facility, just a hose outside; so, we’re doing the best we can with what we have.”

Callagy said the district’s declining enrollment would not affect the need for these buses in the near future.

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