Forest Grove residents could see bright yellow school buses rolling around town this fall without black exhaust rolling out of their tailpipes.

A proposal presented to the Forest Grove school board Monday night would replace 10 of the Mid Columbia Bus Company buses that serve Forest Grove students with new vehicles that run on liquid propane, a cleaner burning and less expensive fuel than diesel.

The district contracts with Mid Columbia to provide bus service. Under the proposal, the company would buy propane-powered buses and pass the fuel cost savings on to the school district.

Tony Barnhart of Mid Columbia told board members the company has been piloting the program in Idaho and has been pleased with the results.

Barnhart said that if approved by the board, Mid Columbia would start by replacing 10 of the 36 large buses the district uses. Barnhart foresees a savings of $12,000 in fuel costs the first year of the program. The district spends about $90,000 on fuel each year.

Ultimately, if all 36 large buses were replaced with propane-powered buses, the district could save between $35,000 and $55,000 in fuel costs each year, Barnhart said.

The advantages are many, Barnhart told the board. Propane prices fluctuate much less than diesel. In addition, he said, the fuel is non-toxic and is sourced from America and Canada.

The buses, manufactured by Bluebird, are American-made — and from an enviromental perspective, the carbon footprint of burning propane is much lighter than that of burning diesel.

“Contract issues notwithstanding, I can’t see any downside to this,” said board vice-chairman John Hayes. “Having the district do this would be fantastic.”

Board members generally agreed the district should pursue negotiating a change in contract with Mid Columbia to bring the propane-powered buses onboard.

But district finance manager Mike Schofield said the contract will need to be renegotiated and probably lengthened. “We’ll need to talk about ‘How do we each get our bang for the buck,’ ” Schofield said.

Contract Publishing

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