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WDC's bus fleet ready to pick up kids

Photos provided Jerry Fellman, left, will be driving one of the new 77-passenger Internationals this fall for the Wadena-Deer Creek school district.1 / 2
Driver Terry Dockham in one of the new 14-passenger Chevrolet buses which District 2155 is leasing from Hoglund Bus and Truck of Monticello.2 / 2

A flock of 2011 school buses have made a timely landing in Wadena.

Eight 77-passenger Internationals and two 14-passenger Chevrolets are on the line and awaiting their drivers for the 2010-2011 school year.

Wadena-Deer Creek transportation director Tim Wohlert will have 20 buses in his charge by the time the school year begins. The 10 new buses are all leased from Hoglund Bus and Truck of Monticello. The district has seven buses being repaired and five ready to go.

An EF-4 tornado that hit Wadena June 17 roared right over the Wadena County Fairground where 17 of the school's 22 buses were in safe keeping for the summer months. The catastrophe that followed left District 2155 scrambling for buildings and buses.

Half of the $287,000 which the district's insurance carrier paid to cover the loss of the bus fleet was earmarked early for repair of those buses that could be repaired. The remainder of the money would not buy even two buses -- which made leasing the only viable option.

Since a school bus costs $80,000, Wohlert said the district's typical strategy in upgrading a fleet is to buy four new buses every three years.

The district inquired about used big buses to replace the eight vehicles that were too badly damaged to repair, but those are scarce.

"These are just to fill in until we can get something figured out," Wohlert said of his 10 new buses.

The 14-passenger buses, which run $44,000 apiece, are expected to prove handy. They can be driven by anyone with a Class C driver's license after only five hours of training.

"We've never had them before," Wohlert said. "This is an opportunity to try them out. If they don't work out for us we can send them back."

The lease, which District 2155 arranged with help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is for six months.

Not all of the school's 20 buses are expected to be in use at one time. School bus fleets must have extra buses on days when there is a larger need due to extracurricular activities.

Wohlert will soon have a new bus garage facility to service buses and provide him with an office. The district is remodeling a school-owned storage garage on Deerwood Avenue. Wohlert's new phone number will be (218) 632-2168.