As the transportation director for Sampson County Schools, Herb Sanderson said students, principals and coaches take pride in their schools.
“I know riding up in a brand new activity bus would build even more pride,” he said. “That state championship baseball team next year would look good riding up in a new activity bus.”
During a Tuesday work session, Sanderson presented a possible purchase plan to upgrade the fleet by purchasing four new activity buses.
There’s a total of 21 activity buses and 11 of those are 1990 models. The newest buses were purchased in 2004.
Sanderson discussed the purchasing of buses from Carolina Thomas and financing through Daimler Mercedes-Benz. The district was provided with a quote of $76,251 per year, beginning in 2015 and ending in 2019. The five-year total is more than $351,000. It’s a lease-to-own process.
“The good thing is if we do decide to buy some, the price has gone down on activity buses, believe it or not.” Sanderson said.
Compared to last year, the amount is cheaper because the in-dash air condition was not an option in the price of an activity bus.
Currently the cost of an activity bus is more than $87,000. That amount is expected to increase by $2,000 next year.
Some of the benefits of the lease include receiving four buses (one per school district), fuel savings and a five-year bumper-to-bumper warranty.
Sanderson reported that the buses are set to come off the assembly line in September and that a payment would not be due until next year.
Sanderson said they would not be bound by the offer, since others are available.
The transportation director stressed that the for buses were more a need than a want.
“I assure you the 21 that we have are safe to drive, but anytime you have the age we have with our school buses, the dependability is not what it used to be, therefore it could turn into a safety issue if something breaks down.”
Board Chairman Telfair Simpson indicated that the board would need to examine the system’s budget after Sampson County commissioners and state officials make decisions about their own.
“I know you do a really good job of taking care of our fleet,” Simpson said. “The older a vehicle gets, the more chance there is for something to go wrong with it.”
Faye Gay, vice chairwoman, said it’s very important for an operator. “I know from experience (it’s important) to have a dependable bus on that road, especially as 12 o’ clock at night and you have a bus load of students coming from a ball game, trip or whatever,” Gay said
The board asked superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy and other school officials to look at ways to finance four activity vehicles.
“I think it’s about time we update our fleet,” board member Glenn Tart said before making a motion.
Board member Sonya Powell remembered operating a 1990 bus, as she prepared to vote. “They were getting frail in 2001,” Powell said. “They definitely need to be retired.”