The Eden Central School District is facing a dilemma with the announcement that three more buses are being removed from service, bringing a total of six buses retired from service in about a year.
Transportation Supervisor Rose Heckathorn said the buses are not structurally sound and in some cases have large holes in the undercarriage.
“The metal frames have decayed so severely they are not safe for students,” Heckathorn said at Wednesday’s School Board meeting. “Last school year we had to park a small blue bus, as well as a 48-passenger bus off to the side because of this. As of Sept. 19 we will be putting another 48-passenger bus out of service.”
Heckathorn said three more buses will be removed from the fleet on Oct. 24.
“These buses would not pass the Department of Transportation safety tests, and we are pulling them,” Heckathorn said. She added that these buses are on average 13 years old, far exceeding the estimated life-span of seven to 10 years for a school bus.
According to Heckathorn, much of the structural damage is from the salt and calcium chloride mixes now being spread on the roads. “The residue is more corrosive and sits longer on the frames,” Heckathorn said. “If it gets wet again, it reactivates and eats more of the framework. The bottoms of these buses have large corrosive sections in them and in some cases you can see through them.”
Thomas Murphy, director of finance, said the cost of a new 48-passenger bus is about $100,000, but the district would see about 70 percent of the purchase price of each bus returned because of funding initiatives. “Just to replace the floor is $30,000 or more, so it comes out to be the same cost and you have a new bus,” Murphy said.
School Board members will discuss how they will replace these vehicles and whether they will ask district voters to approve the purchase of two large buses and two smaller ones at the next year’s budget vote or ask for a total of six.
“I feel it would be too much to replace everything in one year,” Murphy said. “It would be better to do it in sections” He went on to suggest the board contemplate setting up a rotation schedule so buses are replaced at a steady rate, preventing a large scale replacement again.
For now, Murphy was preparing to contact some of the school bus manufacturers to see if they would lend the district some buses to make it through the school year.