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Local

NCSD to replace bus burned in February blaze

Investigators are still unsure what caused blaze

Newton Community School District Board of Education member Donna Cook reviews information from the board packet during a regularly scheduled board meeting Monday night at the E.J.H. Administration building in Newton.
Newton Community School District Board of Education member Donna Cook reviews information from the board packet during a regularly scheduled board meeting Monday night at the E.J.H. Administration building in Newton.

After a long search, Newton Community School District administrators are replacing a bus that caught fire earlier this year.

During Monday’s regularly scheduled board meeting, district officials informed board members they’ve purchased a replacement bus from a neighboring school district.

District administrators are still unsure as to the exact cause of the fire, which occurred Feb. 28 at the school’s bus barn. NCSD Superintendent Bob Callaghan said the district’s insurance company has been unable to pinpoint a reason why the bus caught fire, although the superintendent said they’ve ruled out foul play.

“Spontaneous combustion is all they can come up with,” Callaghan said. “Investigators can’t seem to figure what started the fire, there’s no sign of mischief.”

Firefighters were already on the scene, and the fire was out when Roorda arrived at the bus barn in February. NCSD Transportation Supervisor Curt Roorda said the bus has a block heater, a device that warms the engine to help with cold starts installed, but it was not plugged in at the time of the fire.

“All I know is that I got a phone call that one of the buses was on fire ,and the fire department was already here when I got here,” Roorda said earlier this year. “I don’t know what caused the fire, the block heater was not plugged in, it had been parked there since Friday.”

Despite an inability to find a cause for the fire, Callaghan said the district’s insurance company decided the bus was a total loss. The company issued an insurance payout in the amount of $56,000 for the bus. The money will go towards the purchase of a used bus to replace the totaled bus. Callaghan told board members on Monday the district had agreed to purchase a bus from the Grinnell School District for $54,285.

Roorda said his staff inspected the bus in Grinnell before placing a bid. With only 53,000 miles on the odometer, the bus is also a year newer than the one which caught on fire.

Board member Donna Cook questioned the superintendent about the replacement bus.

“We know that it’s mechanically sound?” Cook asked Callaghan.

“It’s a little bit less expensive, and we think we think we’re getting a really good bus,” Callaghan said. “Curt and his mechanics went over and inspected it. We had the high bid, we told Curt to bid up to the amount we were getting from the insurance company because we really wanted the bus.”

Although the purchase price for the replacement bus is above the threshold which typically requires board action, board approval wasn’t required for the purchase since the bus is replacing an existing bus.

Callaghan also announced to board members the district has agreed to purchase new computers to upgrade an existing computer lab at Newton High School. At $25,000, the computers are under the threshold that requires board approval, but district administrators wanted to update board members on the project.

Twenty-five new computers will be installed in the lab at the high school, where they will be used for digital graphics classes, speech and debate classes. The computers will replace existing machines that are more than six years old.

“They came in on government deals bid, so we know they’re highly competitive,” Callaghan said.

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or ddolmage@newtondailynews.com

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