COTTONWOOD - They stopped short of kicking the tires, but the bus drivers in the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District closely inspected their newly arrived buses Wednesday.
Five shiny, brand-new yellow buses rolled into Cottonwood in the morning, the result of a local school bond vote last November. A total of 15 buses have been ordered and the rest should arrive throughout the summer.
At the same time Wednesday, three of the district's 1991 school buses were cranked up for the last time and chugged out past the new buses. They were headed to Phoenix where they were being traded in to the Bluebird company that built the new buses.
Two additional buses will have to be towed to Phoenix and a total of 11 old buses will be put out of commission this summer, according to David Snyder, business manager Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District.
Out of the $15 million bond vote last November, $1.8 million was earmarked for pupil transportation, Snyder said. The remaining bond money will be spent on building renovations and technology.
All but $200,000 of the $1.8 million for transportation has been spent on the new buses and will be saved to replace some of the remaining older buses in four or five years. The district runs about 20 buses each day and will continue running some diesel buses, Snyder said.
There will be 11 conventional buses, two buses with air conditioning and storage areas for traveling and two special education buses with lifts, he added. "We never had buses with air conditioning in the district so this is exciting," Snyder said.
And all the buses will run on propane, Snyder explained, adding that data shows that there is less emissions with propane, the maintenance history is good, and propane is cheaper. The old propane buses did not have much power, but that has changed now.
"We had a horrible time keeping our buses running," said Snyder, pointing out that there will an overall savings to the district in savings in maintenance costs over the cost of the new buses.
The new buses have more modern safety technology for students and GPS tracking, he added.
The Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District School Board will get a chance to check out the buses for themselves next Tuesday when they have a scheduled inspection and tour of the five new buses.
Voters passed the COSD bond last November, but voters were not so generous toward a Mingus Union High School override that would have gone towards fixing the high school's transportation and bus issues. Voters denied the override that would have bought new buses at the high school.
Mingus Union High School superintendent Paul Tighe last November told school board members that he was looking for a possible bond election to meet their capital needs.
A spokesperson in the superintendent's office on Wednesday said they have not called for a bond vote yet, but a decision is not due until June for the November 2015 election.