State grant will help pay for one bus

For the third consecutive year three new buses will be added to the Hannibal public school district’s bus fleet. The latest purchase was approved during Wednesday night’s board of education meeting.

Unlike last year, when a trio of regular-sized buses were purchased, this year two of the three new buses will be smaller.

“The two 28-passenger special ed buses will have a huge impact our growing special services needs and they will enable us to do it more efficiently and at a reduced cost of operation,” said Rich Stilley, district business manager.

The district is accepting the lowest of three bids for both sizes of buses. Midwest Transit Equipment submitted a bid of $95,921 for a 77-passenger, diesel-powered bus. The two 28-passenger buses will cost a total of $182,788. The bottom-line total of the three buses will be $278,709.

Stilley advised the school board that the bids were “unbelievably low.”

In 2016, the district paid $282,435 to Midwest Transit Equipment for three 77-passenger buses. In the 2014-15 school year a bid of $246,623 was accepted from Midwest Bus Sales for three new 27-passenger buses.

Among the features the new buses will possess is air conditioning. They are not the district’s first buses capable of providing their passengers with a cool ride even when it is sweltering outside.

“We purchased three full size buses last school year that are equipped with air conditioning. They are being utilized on regular and trip routes,” said Stilley.

Unlike last year, when three older buses being replaced weren’t sold off but were kept in reserve as substitute buses, this year the plan is to part with three buses.

“Two smaller special ed buses will be sold through a sealed bidding process and the full-size bus will be disabled pursuant the requirements of the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) grant,” said Stilley.

In September it was announced the school district would be receiving an $18,000 grant from the state. Those funds could only be used to purchase a new bus that replaces an older and less efficient bus in the district’s fleet. The bus being taken out of service must be scrapped.

Stilley estimates that the oldest bus in the Hannibal fleet will soon be eight years old. It wasn’t that long ago that the district’s oldest bus was from 12 to 15 years.

Last year it was reported that the average age of school buses in Missouri was eight years. According to the School Bus Fleet Fact Book, as of 2016 the average age of a school bus in the U.S. was 9.3 years.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com