Two local school districts will benefit from a Department of Ecology grant that will help buy new school buses to replace older models that emit more pollution. Both Freeman and Liberty school districts will receive $20,000 in School Bus Replacement grant money.
Liberty Superintendent Bill Motsenbocker said his district usually orders a new bus every January anyway, so the grant money will be put toward the bill that should run abut $90,000. “We buy one bus per year and we trade in a bus,” he said. “It’s just a constant system.”
The DOE was trying to replace buses that were 1988 or older, but after distributing the grants found that there was more money left, Motsenbocker said. That opened the door for the 1991 bus Liberty will be replacing. “You have to scrap the bus and you have to have a hole bored through the engine to make it useless,” he said.
Districts are required to replace a bus that is in daily use and the new bus must also be used daily. That rule is to prevent districts from simply replacing an old junker bus that isn’t really in use. Grant recipients must also certify that the old bus has been destroyed. “What they don’t want to have happen is for someone else to use the bus,” Motsenbocker said. “What they want to do is get them off the road because of the pollution.”
Freeman School District also buys a bus each year, but usually in September, said Superintendent Sergio Hernandez. This year’s purchase will likely be moved up, since the grant requires that districts take delivery of their new buses by the end of June. “We decided that it made sense to take advantage of the grant,” he said.
When Freeman buys a bus it usually runs about $106,000. “We need special equipment out here and special bus construction because so many of our buses travel gravel roads instead of paved roads,” Hernandez said.
The special equipment includes automatic traction control and automatic chains, said transportation supervisor Charlotte Trejbal. Even the drivers get special consideration. “We equip our buses with air seats, too, because the roads are so rough,” she said.
Freeman will be getting rid of a 1988 bus to make way for the new one.