The Hall County Board of Education approved a contract Monday night with Ferrellgas and CleanFUEL USA to provide fuel and dispensing equipment for 20 liquid petroleum school buses expected to begin rolling in mid-March.
Stations will be installed at the East Hall High School stadium, the school bus maintenance shop on Atlanta Highway in South Hall and Chestatee Middle School in northwest Hall. Diesel fueling stations are at those sites now.
The buses, bought last year for about $1.8 million, will be retrofitted to run on LP, which costs anywhere from $1 to $1.50 per gallon cheaper than diesel fuel and produces less emissions.
"We will continue with your blessing to move our fleet to an LP fleet, as we replace buses over the next five years," Superintendent Will Schofield said to the school board.
The school system runs about 230 routes per day, with buses logging about 4 million miles per year, said Jewel Armour, executive director of operations.
The cost savings "is going to add up, and that's money we can turn around and put into teacher salaries," Schofield said.
The school system is getting about $610,000 in state money to apply toward the overall bus expense.
"After we do that, we'll only be paying about $58,000 per bus, which is a bargain," Armour said.
Schofield said that one condition in operating the fuel stations is that "we'll also have to make our pumps available to other individuals with LP vehicles."
CleanFUEL USA, a Texas-based company that has been providing alternative fuel vehicles and dispensers since the early 1990s, will issue a card to its customers so they can make purchases, Armour said.
"Now, it is mostly government vehicles (using the service)," he added.
Ferrellgas, based in Overland Park, Kan., is a propane supplier with locations around the country.
"New York City cabs have run on LP for years," Schofield said. "They would tear those motors down after a million miles and they would look like they just came off the showroom floor.
"It's a domestic product ... and latest estimates are we sit on a 150-year to 200-year supply of LP in this country."
Armour said he did a lot of research on the safety of using LP.
"There's a lot of school systems in Texas that ... have been running (LP buses) for a while and all their reports are good," he said.
It's flammable, as with any gas, but LP is similar to diesel fuel in that it "takes a lot of heat to ignite it," Armour added.