Originally created 11/17/00

Bus fleet may get additions



Columbia County's school system could spend $1.4 million to replace old school buses in its fleet if proposed bids are approved by school board members.

The plan calls for the purchase of 28 buses - six special education buses and 22 regular 66-passenger buses. School Superintendent Tommy Price presented the proposal to school board members during their Tuesday meeting.

The board will vote on the purchase at its Nov. 28 meeting.

The purchase is a large one for the school system because 10 years ago the district upgraded its fleet to meet growth. Buses depreciate after 10 years, and the state no longer provides funds to maintain buses after that time.

However, school buses can last as long as 15 years, Transportation Director Shirley Doolittle said.

"You still have to use them," she said.

Since 1993-94, Columbia County has replaced as few as five buses a year and as many as 12. Over the next four years, the school system could have to buy 28 more buses.

Columbia County maintains a fleet of 177 school buses for 136 bus routes.

Currently, the school system's oldest buses are 1984-85 models and are used as spares or activity buses, Doolittle said. The proposed purchase would allow the transportation department to retire about 20 of the school system's oldest buses, which could then either be sold at auction or used for parts.

Newer buses would be put on regular routes, and older buses would be used as spares in place of those retired.

Price said that 20 of the new buses will be purchased with $989,000 in revenue from the special purpose local option sales tax. The remaining eight will be purchased with money the school system collects from the state for buses. Columbia County has been allotted $436,289 but will only need $416,900 for the purchase.

The bid for the six special education buses came to $53,000 each - almost $340 over last year's bids. The bid for the 22 regular 66-passenger buses was $49,450 each, $55 lower than the previous year's bid.