District to replace 5 aging buses in fleet

By Bethany Knipp

USD 383 will spend about $450,000 for six buses to replace some that didn’t pass an annual inspection.

The Manhattan-Ogden school board approved a request by the district’s transportation director, Doug Messer, at a Wednesday meeting.

Five of the buses will be bought used at $69,669 each and will have 10,000 to 24,000 miles on them. They would have eight years of factory warranty left and are about 2 years old.

The 71-passenger buses would replace four buses that didn’t pass an inspection, mostly because of excessive corrosion.

“They are 20-year-old buses,” Messer said. “It’s 20 years of Kansas winters, and the stuff we put on the roads will eat these buses up. We clean them as much as we can.”

Kansas allows the district to keep buses for 25 years, but Messer said that doesn’t provide frontline service.

Messer said two of the old buses had 230,000 miles on them that he guessed were spent mostly on gravel roads.

A fifth bus, Messer said, is expected to have the same problems next year, so he recommended a preemptive replacement.

Messer acknowledged the high cost of the buses.

“The days of buying a $35,000 bus are long gone,” Messer said. The cost of the five buses together is $348,345, paid for with the district’s capital outlay transportation fund.

Messer said that in the future as prices increase every year, a new bus would be $90,000 to $100,000 without special features.

“I’m a little concerned going forward,” board member Darell Edie said. He wondered if leasing buses would be cheaper.

“I’m hearing month after month of state shortfalls,” Edie said. “If the state continues to shortfall, guess where it’s gonna hit. So, next year we may have to look at some other options.”

Messer said the district has leased buses in the past with the option to buy at the end of the term. He said leasing could possibly keep the repair budget down. 

In addition to the five big buses, the district will purchase a new 18-passenger lift bus for $101,801 that can hold up to four wheelchairs.

That bus will be paid for with money from a special education equipment fund.

Messer, who showed school board members a website that compared bus prices and features, said it was necessary to buy the bus new because the district tries to get as much out of those buses as it can.

“It is utilized all day long, every day,” Messer said. “We travel out of town with these buses, and so we need them to be able to withstand the harsh punishment that they get. They get 25,000 a year on them, and they only leave town a couple days.”

Some of the features that the students who ride it will need include a wheelchair security system, chair lifts and air conditioning, Messer said.

“We put air conditioning on these types of buses because these are the most fragile students we have in our school system, and many of them have it in their (individual education plans) that they must be in a climate-controlled environment,” he said. 

Edie moved to approve the purchase and auction off the old buses.

He said he was glad the purchases, despite their expense, were $77,000 under budget.

In addition to approving the bus purchase, the school board unanimously approved a final motion granting two easements, which will allow the city of Manhattan to go ahead with storm water drainage improvements on the south side of CiCo Park, where USD 383 owns Bishop Stadium.

Superintendent Bob Shannon told the school board that the district has addressed whooping cough reports in Pottawatomie County by pushing its school nurses and office staff members to get immunization records from parents for their children and has been sending reminders about vaccinations.

He said Kansas law requires children to have the vaccination with exemption given only for religious or medical reasons.

“We get really good cooperation from the parents,” he said.

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