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Schools look at propane powered buses

TRI-COUNTY AREA—Going green is something schools in the area have been thinking of doing when looking at propane powered buses.
There is only one school district in the area that will be using at least one propane bus. Superintendent Ann Orman said Penn Yan wants to test one bus before buying any. She said that the school district ordered one for use during the fall school year. She added that one concern is taking the bus on trips. Orman explained that there might not always be a location to refuel on longer trips.
“We’re kind of curious to see how this is going to work,” she said.
Dundee Superintendent Nancy Zimar said the district has no immediate plans to buy propane buses. However, she said they are “certainly informed about the advantages” and will be looking into it in the future.
Kyle Bower, Hammondsport superintendent, said the cost effectiveness of switching to propane powered buses is still unresolved. He said that for Hammondsport there is a question whether the buses could handle the hilly terrain. Bower added that previous models of propane powered buses were “not agreeable” with colder weather.
“It hasn’t been the main area of discussion,” said Bower. However, he added the transportation supervisor is involved at the state level.
Watkins Glen Central School District has already applied for a grant to purchase propane powered buses two weeks ago. Tom Phillips, superintendent, said it is through the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency. He explained that if the district did purchase propane powered buses, it would be in place of the two or three diesel buses purchased every year. The cycle replaces older buses with new buses. Phillips said this type of purchase is already part of the yearly budget.
“One issue is, it’s part of the fixed rotation,” said Phillips. He explained the schools only get aid the year after buses are purchased in this rotation, either diesel or propane powered. However, Phillips said that since Watkins is already doing this, the district gets aid from the buses already purchased the previous year.
Another step Watkins Glen is taking to improve emissions standards will be replacing the catalytic converters on the current diesel buses. Phillips said a grant was already approved for the district to do this, however the money is not in yet.
Odessa-Montour Superintendent Jim Frame said the district has been considering the transition to propane buses, but is holding off for a year. The school board even heard a presentation about the advantages. However, he said that O-M wants to wait and see how the buses work for the Corning school district. Frame also pointed out that Corning is one of the few districts in the state to be using propane powered buses.
“It looks initially like a very good thing,” said Frame. However, he added that an initial investment is needed to be able to house and service the buses.

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