Career Center board eyes benefits of natural gas buses

LISBON – The Columbiana County Career and Technical Center may not have any buses of its own, but that did not stop board members from having an open discussion Tuesday night about the possible benefits of several of the area schools looking into natural gas buses in the future.

Board members from the CTC are representatives from the school boards of many of the local school districts countywide.

Mike Ellyson, president of the CTC board, said although an Educational Service Center joint initiative to obtain Straight A funds from the state for a natural gas project did not get funded, his school district, United Local Schools, intends to continue looking at the option.

Ellyson said experts talking to United Schools have told them the buses will cost about $20,000 more than the current diesel school buses. However, the annual cost savings will be huge. United spent $140,000 on fuel for its buses last year and Ellyson said they were told they would have saved $70,000 if they had natural gas buses.

“If we are the number one natural gas producers in the world, why shouldn’t we use it,” Ellyson said.

He told the other board members there is a push to contact some local politicians next to discuss the possibility of getting help to fund the cost of the filling stations or purchase of the buses. Ellyson said the estimate is between $500,000 to $700,000 to put in the filling station.

However, seven buses can be filled at once, plugged in and left for the night. Ellyson said they can operate a bus at United for three days on a fill up and have been told the natural gas buses can be set up to get similar mileage.

He also touted the safety of natural gas buses, adding they will be just as safe as diesel. Prototypes of front engine natural gas buses are being built soon. Several of the board members expressed interest in at least looking into the option on behalf of their school districts.

In other matters at the CTC:

– Those interested in becoming firefighters can take the firefighting class at the CTC for free in the next year. Adult Education Director Kelly Darby announced at Tuesday’s meeting the program just received a fire grant, which will cover up $1,200, the cost to take the class. Those interested should act soon. The class must be completed by June 30, 2015 to qualify for the funding.

– Darby also spoke proudly about the Eastern Ohio Job Fair, held last month at the CTC in conjunction with U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson and state Sen. Joe Schiavoni. At least one CTC student, who previously demonstrated virtual welding equipment students were using to the board, was hired to a good paying job by Hunt Valve in Salem, Darby said. In all there were many companies in attendance and more than 300 job seekers attended.

– The upcoming changes in state requirements from a number of days to a number of hours will make it easier for most local school districts to get by even with inclement weather. However, Superintendent Chuck Adkins said it is tight for the CTC high school program, which must still make the hourly requirement, despite students coming from across the county, arriving later and going home earlier due to school bus transportation from their home district.

One of the solutions, Adkins said is a shorter period to eat breakfast, but students will be allowed to take the food with them to their first class. There are also adjustments being made to the schedules to change classes.

Adkins also explained the 105 hour rule, noting students who have 105 consecutive hours of unexcused absences must be removed from the roles at the CTC.

– Finally, the new driveway resurfacing project is underway and expected to be completed sometime next week. Adkins said current things being addressed are water drainage problems, especially where drains were blocked in the front of the building. Additionally, new lines and signage should be done by mid-August.