Gasconade R-2 awarded $64,400 in bus grant funding

By: 
Roxie Murphy
Staff Writer

Thanks to a Volkswagon (VW) Settlement turned grant, the Gasconade County R-2 School District will receive $64,465.25 in grant funds for three new school buses for the 2019-20 school year.

The grant, awarded Feb. 20, stipulated one school district may apply for assistance for up to three buses, with a maximum amount of $22,000 per bus or one-fourth of the price. R-2 Transportation Director Gary Pohlmann said they expect to receive most of the allotted amount.

“We will receive a little over $21,500 per bus,” Pohlmann said, as their purchase orders stand now,” Pohlmann said. “We would have had to spend more money to get not very much money back to receive the full $22,000.”

Pohlmann said they considered adding options to the buses to reach the $22,000 max, but discovered the additional $6,000 cost would only help them receive about $900 more. The R-2 district orders buses based on Missouri’s basic school bus requirements. Pohlmann said that means there are not “bells and whistles” in the package.

Pohlmann applied for the grant that is being funded with fines paid by  VW for violating the Clean Air Act. VW sold approximately 590,000 vehicles equipped with defeat devices. As part of the settlement, VW provided $2.7 billion for the 2.0 liter violating vehicles and $225 million for the 3.0 liter violating vehicles to an Environmental Mitigation Trust. The trust fund will be used to fully remediate the excess NOx emissions from illegal vehicles.

“The state offered the grant to schools, cities and municipalities,” Pohlmann said.

The district has received three or four grants of this caliber in previous years, and used the same template to apply for the VW grant.

“The amount of the grant was so substantial, we couldn’t pass it up,” Pohlmann said.

The district will basically be receiving $21,500 per bus for three buses to be used towards replacements. 

“If we traded or surplus them, probably the maximum value for those buses would be $2,500,”Pohlmann said. “It’s a no-brainer for that kind of money.”

Midwest Bus Sales has already quoted the district a price for the three Thomas buses made by Freightliner that the district wishes to purchase.

A 44-passenger special transportation bus with a lift was priced at $87,065; and two 71-passenger buses at $85,395; for a total of $257,860. The grant will payout $64,465.25 and the district will be responsible for the remaining $193,395, according to Pohlmann. 

However, in exchange, the diesel engines in the old buses must be destroyed.

“We have to destroy the motors, and someone has to crush the buses and motors to make them unusable. We will take them out to Miller’s Salvage.”

“We need to have the invoice to them in the next couple of weeks,” Pohlmann said.

While the R-2 school district was the twelfth alternative to receive the grant in the first round of cuts, other applicants didn’t meet criteria or didn’t apply for the grant in the correct way, placing the district back in the running. However, the orders were supposed to have been placed and invoices submitted by June 30.

“They are going to front us this money and pay us before we get our buses,” Pohlmann said. “Otherwise there wouldn’t be enough time to do the procurement piece.”

Pohlmann said the only reason the district is as far as they are with the orders now is because he had already started the procurement process in December 2018 in case the district was awarded the grant.

“I am hoping to have the buses in operation by the start of school,” Pohlmann said. “But it could be pushed as far back as October. It depends on how long it will take to get them built.”

Pohlmann said one factory in South Carolina builds busses for the United States. It takes four hours to build a bus on the line from start to finish, if everything runs smoothly. New bus orders are on an average six-month waiting period. The district has been able to utilize grants such as VW and those through DESE to keep up their bus rotations each year. Purchasing three new buses this year will put them ahead for next year and is a considerable cost savings to the district.

Pohlmann added the district recently received a 100 percent on its annual fleet maintenance inspection from the Missouri State Highway Patrol. “We’ve been close the last couple of years, and tires have always got us,” Pohlmann said. “We finally found a tire that is holding up. It is the thing we strive for on the inspections: 100 percent or nothing.”

The district last received a 100 percent on the fleet inspection in 2011. The district will be acknowledged for their successful inspection at the MATT conference in July and will receive recognition from both the Department of Elementary and secondary Education (DESE) and MSHP.