Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dallas students get propane-powered rides to school

August 28. 2013 11:15AM

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DALLAS TWP. — Yes, the new all-propane bus fleet will be parked at the Dallas School District’s new bus pad.

No, the buses are not being refueled or maintained on district property.

And, no, the company — G. Davis Inc. — is neither paying to park the buses on school property nor costing the district money for liability insurance, Superintendent Frank Galicki said after the new fleet had handled morning routes for the first day of school Tuesday.

The switch to an all-propane fleet, and more important, the decision to drop longtime area contractor Emanuel Bus Lines for the Pike-County based G. Davis, evoked strong and prolonged responses earlier this year from some area residents, resulting in a the school board letting both companies rebid and an unsuccessful court challenge by Emanuel.

Among the questions raised in the controversy: Where the out-of-county G. Davis would park, fuel and maintain the fleet, whether it would have enough propane buses for the start of school and whether the new fuel system put students at risk.

On Tuesday, Galicki and Business Manager Grant Palfey said the buses will park on a bus pad built when the new high school was constructed.

“When the school was designed, we had considered potentially to have our own bus fleet,” Palfey said, a move that would have run against the trend of districts dropping in-house transportation for contracted service. “The bus pad was intended to do exactly what it is doing.”

G. Davis did get 22 new buses as promised, and managed to hire enough drivers despite promises by some dedicated Emanuel employees to never work for G. Davis.

G. Davis hired seven Emanuel drivers and five others who had previously worked for Emanuel, Palfey said. Other drivers were recruited as needed, including several from the company’s home in Shohola, Pike County, who were brought to the area in minivans.

G. Davis is not paying for use of the bus pad, but it is covering the cost of liability insurance for using it. The company has arranged to refuel in neighboring Lehman Township at alocation along State Route 118, near Pike’s Creek Raceway Park. Galicki said the savings in propane is substantial: About $3 per gallon less than diesel.

The district had G. Davis do complete test runs last Tuesday, said Galicki, giving parents a chance to to see the buses and meet the drivers. Palfey said the morning run Tuesday went well, with only a few minor glitches that were quickly fixed using the district’s own small fleet of minibuses.

“I think it worked out very well this morning,” Galicki said.

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