By JULIE E. GREENE
6:00 AM EDT, October 27, 2012
The side-view windows can’t be folded in and the windows don’t need to be rolled up, but the crossing arms on the front of the school buses do need to be tied back as a precaution before the buses are driven into Washington County Public Schools’ new $214,638 bus-washing system.
The system is expected to pay for itself in four years as it reduces the amount of time and labor needed to wash the school system’s fleet of 160 school system-owned buses, Transportation Supervisor Barbara J. Scotto said.
The cost to wash one bus manually was $55 per wash including factors such as labor and water, but will be $9 per wash with the new system, Scotto said. The automated system uses 152 gallons of water to wash a bus, including the undercarriage, she said.
Now a bus can be washed in five to six minutes, taking a total of 15 minutes from the time a bus driver brings the bus into the bus wash bay until the driver finishes squeegeeing the windows to avoid spotting, Scotto said. The driver will use a brush to wash crevices the automated system doesn’t reach.
A transportation department employee will start the automated system with the push of two buttons, said Mike King, automotive repair supervisor.
Before, bus drivers would sign up to wash buses and it would take three or four people an average of three hours to wash the exterior of one school bus, Scotto said.
Because it took so long, a bus would be washed one to three times a year, Scotto said.
Scotto said she’d like the buses to get washed eight times a year, with most of the washing occurring from October to March or April when there is typically inclement weather.
The undercarriage function will be used often during the late fall and winter to wash off the mixture road crews use in snowy or icy weather, Scotto said.
While cleaning the undercarriage might not extend the life of a bus, it is expected to delay maintenance and reduce the rust caused by winter road treatments, Scotto said.
The buses also get grimy in the lot off Commonwealth Avenue, she said.
The bus-washing system can be used to wash the school system’s 142 other vehicles, including cars, trucks, food service vans, and maintenance vehicles, Scotto said.
There is no arrangement to wash contractors’ school buses with the automated system, she said.
The school board voted in June to award the $214,638 project, including the device and installation, to NS Wash Systems, of Inglewood, Calif., according to Scotto and records for the June 19 meeting.
Purchasing Supervisor Lisa Freeman said NS Wash was recommended over the lower bidder for various reasons, according to a video of the June meeting. The low bid did not include a wheel wash system to clean the undercarriage and NS Wash would handle the manufacture, installation, and warranty, she said.
The low bidder, Callas Contractors at $186,700, was encouraged to submit a bid because school officials weren’t sure at one point whether they would receive a complete offer for the system, Freeman said in June.
The school system did not opt for a washing system that recycles water because the additional cost couldn’t be justified, given it called for underground tanks, a filtering system and redoing the floor of the garage area, Deputy Superintendent Boyd Michael said during a March budget discussion.
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