TOWNSHEND — An additional school board meeting is anticipated this month after the vice chairman who serves on a task force exploring the potential for electric buses announced an opportunity that could replace diesel buses for free.
“I’ve had a couple of meetings now with the task force people and apparently, our district has been designated by the federal EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] as a priority district for electric bus purchase,” Joe Winrich, West River Education District Board vice chairman, said at the board meeting Wednesday.
He envisions current bussing provider West River Transportation trading in its buses then owning their electric replacements, as the grant requires diesel buses to be taken off the road. West River Transportation and the district would then need to enter into a five-year contract for transportation.
TOWNSHEND — A new task force is taking up the topic of school buses going electric.
Winrich anticipates six or seven buses would be needed.
“We need to connect with West River Transportation urgently and meaningfully,” he said.
Winrich said the electric buses are worth $375,000 each and the district would get $20,000 for each to help with infrastructure costs. Anticipating that the grant application is due in the second week of August, he called for scheduling a special meeting.
“I personally don’t see a downside to this,” he said.
Board member Lindsey Bertram said she wants to see a presentation before voting on the project.
“We’re not the first ones to do this,” said Emily Long, board member and state representative for the Windham-5 district, suggesting outreach to other school districts that have gone through a similar process. “I think it’s important we know what we’re getting into … I think it would be really neat to get some answers.”
A conversation with West River Transportation is “going to be really critical,” Long said.
“It needs to make sense financially,” she said.
Laurie Garland, chief financial officer at Windham Central Supervisory Union and treasurer for the West River school district, said federal assets usually require a specific type of disposal so that may discourage the bus company.
In May, the task force formed at the recommendation of West River Valley 100 Percent Renewable. The task force includes Paul Paytas, a Townshend resident who formerly taught and coached at Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School, and Mike McAssey of Newfane. Both members proposed the exploring the potential for switching to electric buses.