APS bus inspections complete; 1 red tagged

ALPENA – Alpena Public Schools finished its annual school bus fleet inspection, done by the Michigan State Police, on Tuesday. APS Transportation Director Mike Gagnon said one of the district’s 40 buses has been red tagged due to rust and other deterioration of the bus body, not to mechanical or engine issues.

“The miles traveled by our fleet continually expose the buses to salt, moisture and rough roads which can lead to metal fatigue and deterioration of the floorboards,” Gagnon said. “We’ve been successful at keeping our fleet mechanically up to the challenges of the travel required, but eventually the bus body will just wear out.”

According to Gagnon, MSP issued a warning on one other bus, also for body issues, and the remaining 38 buses passed inspection.

“We’ve had our ups and downs in the past couple of years with the bus inspections. Historically, Alpena Public Schools’ track record has been stellar, but in the past few years we’ve struggled because we have not financially been able to replace school buses as often as we’d like,” Superintendent Brent Holcomb said. “The district’s deficit has impacted all departments, including transportation.”

The bus that was red tagged is one chosen to be sold later in the fall.

“We will be recommending the purchase of one to two buses to the board of education later this month,” Gagnon said. “The red tagged bus is a 2000 model year. The district has 34 regular route buses and six spares including the red tagged bus.

“We’ve concentrated on keeping the buses safe and mechanically sound and will continue to do so,” he said. “We have top-notch mechanics under contract. The district fleet travels the equivalent of a trip to Disneyworld and back each day.”

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.