By Heather Mullinix
The Cumberland County Board approved a resolution asking the Tennessee General Assembly to reconsider its age and mileage limits on school buses, allowing school systems to keep buses in use longer and possibly saving funds.
Currently, state law requires school districts to retire conventional school buses from fleets at 17 years of service or 200,000 miles of travel, regardless of mechanical condition. Other states do not have these limits, however, and cash-strapped school systems around the state are signing on to the resolution prepared by the Tennessee School Boards Association asking that those limits be eased, provided the bus still meets the stringent requirements of twice yearly inspections by the Department of Safety.
Cumberland County purchased four new regular school buses and two special needs buses this year, at a cost of more than $487,000. The school system saves money buy purchasing new buses that are the previous year's model.
Josh Stone, 4th District representative, moved to approve the resolution, supported by Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative.
Sandy Brewer, 3rd District representative, noted she had talked with the transportation supervisor in Putnam County and he is tracking the cost of maintenance required by the older buses in hopes of better understanding the true cost of delaying bus replacement. That would be important information should the state allow school systems to extend the lives of its bus fleets.
“The first five years, buses are covered under warranty. The next five years, there isn't a lot of things that need repair,” Brewer said. “When you hit the ten-year mark, you see more work is needed. Some may find it cheaper to get rid of buses because of the repairs.”
Charles Tollett, 1st District representative, noted the resolution called for permissive language, and would not require buses to remain in service longer than 17 years.
“That's a wise procedure,” he said of the Putnam County plan. “When you reach the point that it's costing more to maintain then replace, the wisdom is to replace. We want to keep good judgment.”
The resolution was unanimously approved and will be sent to legislators in support of new legislation in the upcoming session of the General Assembly.
In other news, the board learned the school system had hit its energy savings goal for the year under the Trane Energy Efficient Schools program. To date, the school system has saved a total of $11,413 through the program that included centralizing HVAC controls and updating light and water fixtures throughout the school system.
In the past year, the school system saved $271,317, which was $688 more than the projected savings. Trane guarantees the energy savings and, if target is not met, is obligated to cover the difference. Those savings are being used to finance the cost and financing of the project. Last year, the school system fell $18,000 below the savings guarantee. Trane did not have to reimburse the school system for that year, however, because it was allowed to use implementation year excess saving to offset one year during the program. The school system realized excess energy savings of $29,041during the implementation year.
Total excess savings since the project began is $11,413.
In other business, the board approved the following:
•Added the following names to the volunteer list at Brown Elementary: Ruby Babcock, Nancy Bridges, Helen Davis, Jessica Davis, Judi Elam, Darlene Elkins, Bobbie King, Donna King, Tabitha McBroom, Yvonne Miller, Jack Mullis, Lilian Murray, Anthony Richardson, Jane Saeger, Christeropher Seals, John Sohmer and Charlotte Springer.
•Added Raina Adams, Abby Marie Cope and Micheele Dixon as volunteers at Martin Elementary.
•Added Joan Goodman Gittings as a volunteer at Pleasant Hill Elementary.
•Disposal of surplus property at Stone Elementary and Stone Memorial High School.