East Grand board approves purchase of a new bus at a ‘sign of the times’ price

A demo Proterra electric bus before its first Yellow Route of the Free Ride bus system on March 22, 2018, in Breckenridge. East Grand and West Grand school districts accepted a proposal from Mountain Parks Electric that could have provided their first electric buses that same year.
Summit Daily file photo

At East Grand School District’s board meeting June 21, buses became a complicated issue. Lisa Mirabito, the district’s transportation director, spoke to the board about buying a new activity bus for a whopping $193,860.

Mirabito said she realizes the bus costs a lot of money, but there were a few reasons for the high price tag. The purpose of the bus — to take students to activities — means the bus needs to be able to handle long distances and steep climbs. Buses with low horsepower would not work. The other factor increasing the cost feels familiar to most: inflation.

“It’s just a sign of the times,” Mirabito said. “I don’t think there’s any way around the price if we want to get a new bus.”

The district bought a bus last year for $129,690, according to May 18, 2021, meeting minutes. Mirabito said that bus is not the same as the one she asked for this year. The district bought a conventional bus last year as a route bus, meaning it would only drive around the valley and would not need high horsepower.

“They cost a lot less because the engine is a lot smaller,” Mirabito said. “They just don’t cut it. I mean, they’re like 35 (mph) up Floyd Hill.”

This year’s bus represents the high-end of the options Mirabito described. She said transit-style buses with front-end engines can work as activities buses for the district, but rear-end engine buses, like the one Mirabito asked for, provide more horsepower, are quieter and have more space for passengers and equipment. 

Superintendent Frank Reeves, who retires at the end of June, said he thought bus prices would not go down significantly any time soon. He suggested a way to make buying such an expensive bus “more acceptable” though — applying for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus program.

The program offers rebates to replace existing school buses with electric ones. Mirabito supported the idea of electric buses, saying the district will have to get them eventually, so they might as well do it while the EPA will help pay for them.

“Those things are not cheap,” Mirabito said. “Last I heard, they were like $375,000, just for the bus.”

While the Clean School Bus program allocates funding to help build charging stations, Reeves said he thinks Mountain Parks Electric would help cover any remaining charging station costs. Applications for the program are due Aug. 19.

Mirabito mentioned that the EPA program is not the only one available. Governor Jared Polis signed the Air Quality Improvement Investments bill into law June 2, establishing Colorado’s own electric bus program. Mirabito said she wants to start on the district’s Clean School Bus application quickly.

The board unanimously approved the purchase of the $193,860 bus.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

The Sky-Hi News strives to deliver powerful stories that spark emotion and focus on the place we live.

Over the past year, contributions from readers like you helped to fund some of our most important reporting, including coverage of the East Troublesome Fire.

If you value local journalism, consider making a contribution to our newsroom in support of the work we do.