Aging buses

Second-grade teacher Regay Love, center, hugs a student as she prepares to board a school bus Thursday at Jefferson Elementary in this file photo. Temple ISD has received a grant to replace eight aging diesel buses with new diesel buses featuring lower emissions.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality awarded the Temple school district with a $729,000 contract to replace eight aging buses.

The Temple Independent School District board of trustees approved the contract Monday evening in a 6-0 vote. Board member Shannon Gowan was absent because she was sick.

“This grant will allow us to replace eight aging diesel buses with new diesel buses, featuring lower … emissions,” said Kent Boyd, assistant superintendent of finance and operations. “We’ve identified eight old buses. They range from 18 to 23 years old.”

Superintendent Bobby Ott said the district was the only recipient for this contract in Bell County. TCEQ awarded more than $14.5 million in contracts to 11 entities across the state — 10 of those were in the Texas’ biggest metropolitan areas.

“I think it’s one thing to be awarded as one of the grant recipients, but it’s another to be the only recipient of an entire grant,” Ott said. “This money was available to the entire county — that’s my understanding — and there was one awardee, there could have been multiple.”

The new buses will be purchased from Longhorn Bus Sales for $786,760. That is $57,687 more than what TCEQ awarded Temple ISD.

The school board will consider a budget amendment in October to bridge the gap, Boyd said.

“This represents a really nice improvement to our fleet,” Boyd told the school board. “It certainly pushes us further down the road as far as our replacement cycle.”

Once these new buses are hauling students across Temple, the oldest Temple ISD bus will be a 2008 model, Ott said.

“This is a shot in the arm for our fleet, and this is something that will change things for years to come,” the superintendent said.

The contract is part of the Texas Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust — a program part of a settlement agreement between the Environmental Protection Agency, California and the German automaker.

The EPA and the state of California sued Volkswagen for reportedly skirting around emission standards when tested, according to TCEQ. The vehicle would emit nitrogen oxides at a level above set standards while in use.