COLUMBIANA - A privatized compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station could be beneficial for the Crestview Local School District and other areas, Superintendent John Dilling said Wednesday.
Dilling made the comment after school board member John Garwood briefed the district on a seminar he and Dilling recently attended at Yankee Lake that was aimed at promoting the benefits of natural gas in the region.
Dilling said a CNG fueling station in the county could be beneficial to not only Crestview but other districts looking to save money on transportation costs. He and Treasurer Charlene Mercure were not in favor of the district owning and operating its own fueling station, however.
"There is an interest from other schools in the county to save money on transportation costs. Our subsidy is going away," Dilling said.
Ohio schools received less state funding as a result of cuts to the two-year budget, and while that support is slipping away costs - like diesel fuel - are going up.
Garwood said CNG costs $2.07 per gallon while diesel is around $3.20 per gallon.
Dilling said the district's diesel buses fill up about three times every two weeks and he believes the district could save more than $20 per 100 miles traveled by switching to CNG.
"I think there are some opportunities there we need to look at. The key is having stations," he said.
Referring to the shale oil and gas development under way in the county, he said, "It's not going away. It's a huge opportunity."
Like Dilling, he also believed a privatized fueling station consortium would work better than a district-owned and operated fueling station.
While optimistic, Garwood isn't in favor of diving in head first just yet.
"This is coming. We are going to be doing it, but until it catches hold you don't want to be the first to jump in that," he said.
Dilling pointed out fueling stations are cropping up in other areas, such as Youngstown, Canton and Columbus. The two fueling stations currently in construction near the interstate in Youngstown are by private companies, he added.
He believes the cost of CNG-powered buses will go down with time and that if the district does move toward that route, the buses will not be switched at once.
"Our transition is not going to be complete," he said.
The district's bus mechanics would need to receive special training for CNG buses, he added.
He also said a fueling station consortium will be a focus of the district's Straight A Grant proposal.
The grant funding was included in the new state budget and is given to districts that are looking at creative, cost-effective solutions to improve achievement and increase efficiency, according to the Ohio Department of Education website.
Legislators are also looking at incentives for CNG-powered transportation, with state Reps. Nick Barborak, Sean J. O'Brien and Pennsylvania state Rep. Mark Longietti in favor.