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Propane buses to hit the streets

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

Not only are Washington County’s five buses brand new and ready to take kids to and from school, they’re also designed with the environment in mind.

Washington County School unveiled its five new propane school buses on Wednesday, Aug. 26. These buses, Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary said, were built to lower emissions released into the air, while also cutting down on costs for the school system.

“This is part of our overall plan to both reduce operating costs in Washington County Schools and to reduce our carbon footprint,” Flanary said. “This project is good for students, it’s good for our community and it’s good for the bottom line.”

The county school system scored $102,500 in funding through Tennessee’s “Reducing Diesel Emissions for a Healthier Tennessee” rebate program. The funds are Environmental Protection Agency dollars that are used, with assistance from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and ETCleanFuels, to help assist Tennessee fleets in transitioning to newer vehicles and cleaner fuels. The Washington County Commission also approved to spend $464,560 on the new buses last January after the Washington County Board of Education approved the plan to pursue the propane rather than diesel buses. 

“A lot of people were involved in making this happen,” Flanary said. “I hope this is just the first of a long line of economical, energy efficient vehicles that are added to the fleet here in Washington County.”

Washington County Schools Materials and Operations Director Jarrod Adams said the five propane buses are also a way for the school system to save money on buses in the future.

“While propane buses are a little more expensive on the front-end,” Adams said, “the savings over the lifetime of the bus — which will be around 15 years on the road — it more than triples how much we pay per bus in the long term. We save about $15,000 over the life of a bus in fuel costs alone. You multiply that by five buses and that’s a lot of money we’re saving.”

The Blue-Bird buses, with a propane bus sticker and a green bird above the door, also provide opportunities, Washington County Commissioner Jodi Jones said at the unveiling event. Jones said she hopes it also inspires the rest of the county to want to improve Tennessee’s oldest county. 

“Alternative fuels are an innovation,” Jones said. “The green birds you see on these buses say, ‘We did something different here.’ It’s exciting to think those outside of our county would see us as forward-thinking and engaged in solutions, but when a community makes strives toward experimentation and innovation like this, the more important impact is right here among our people — where it ignites hope and a sense of pride in our place and engenders in others a commitment to improving our community.”