Friday, March 12, 2010

School board approves biodiesel plan

Storage tank to be located at bus depot on Fox Acres Road

Express Staff Writer

Within a few months, fueling school buses with biodiesel at the Chevron station in downtown Hailey will be a thing of the past. The Blaine County school board on Tuesday approved installing a 12,000-gallon fuel storage tank at the bus depot near the Community Campus on Fox Acres Road. Bus driver Shirley Tharp is shown here fueling a bus at Chevron on Thursday. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Blaine County School District board of trustees on Tuesday narrowly approved a controversial plan to install a 12,000-gallon biodiesel storage tank at the bus depot on Fox Acres Road in east Hailey.

The vote was 3-2 in favor of the plan, with board Chair Julie Dahlgren casting the tie-breaking vote. Newer Trustees Paul Bates and Steve Guthrie voted no, while long-time board members Mari Beth Matthews and Daniel Parke voted yes.

The measure was approved over the opposition of some Woodside area residents, neighbors of the bus depot near Wood River High School and the district-owned Community Campus.

"There's really no compelling reason that I can see to build a smelly fuel facility on campus," said Woodside resident Steve Bynum, who presented the school board with a petition that he said contained the signatures of more than 200 people opposed to the plan.

Bynum referenced a 2003 conditional-use permit the school district received from the city of Hailey for building the bus depot in a residential area, which stated that no fuel storage would take place at the facility.

"The neighbors have not forgotten this promise to not store fuel on campus," Bynum said.

The school district received a new conditional-use permit from the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission last fall allowing fuel storage at the depot.

Trustee Guthrie said he was opposed to the plan because of the earlier statement about fuel storage.

"I have to respect the assurances that were earlier given to the neighbors," he said.

Bates said the entire bus depot complex should be relocated.

"I don't know if the school district has really assessed the human costs in this," said Bates, who referred to the proposal as a potential "public relations nightmare" because of public opposition. "I'm not worried about the safety whatsoever. I think you put it [bus depot] somewhere else and put the tank there."

Parke, who wasn't present at the meeting but was tuned in via telephone hookup, disagreed with Bates.

"The people I have spoken with and have talked to me are in favor of this tank," he said. "The vast majority are in favor of this project."

The school district has been running its school bus fleet on biodiesel fuel for more than a year.

The district is currently using B20 biodiesel, a combination of 80 percent regular diesel and 20 percent biodiesel, a fuel derived from vegetable oil and animal fats. The buses currently get fuel at the Chevron station in downtown Hailey, but the district proposed installing its own tank at the bus depot to save both on labor and fuel costs and to reduce traffic congestion and exhaust emissions in the city.

District Business Manager Mike Chatterton said the district will save about $12,000 a year in labor and fuel costs by installing the tank at the bus depot.

The school board vote on the tank proposal followed a motion by Bates to table the issue until a later time. That motion was defeated 3-2 with Bates and Guthrie voting to table and Matthews, Parke and Dahlgren voting no.

"I'd like to get it done tonight," Matthews said. "We've been through this and we've discussed this and we have the information."

Chatterton said in an interview that engineering analyses and bid procurement will now be started for placement of the tank. He expects the tank to be installed and operational within three or four months. The total costs will be about $80,000.

McKinstry engineering

By a 3-1 vote, the school board also approved a $15.1 million contract with Seattle-based McKinstry engineering for geothermal development at district buildings. Bates cast the lone dissenting vote. Dahlgren, as board chair, did not vote.

Chatterton explained that the contract is for construction management, engineering services, equipment, supplies and other costs for geothermal resource development and new heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems at Hailey and Bellevue elementary schools, the Carey school campus, Wood River High School and the Community Campus.

He said 85 percent of the funding is "pass-through money" expected to go to local companies.

Terry Smith:

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