Silence is a form of consent… or so it has been said. Silence is easy to maintain when you never know the details. On this week’s Higley school board meeting agenda is an agenda item worth of the Town of Gilbert’s agenda. One might ask… How did the Agenda Item – 7.16 Approve Funding for Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Fueling Station ever make its way to that of school business? But then, when you think of all the fuel that the district uses, especially when considering that of school buses and immense amount of fuel they use collectively, we all like the idea of running CNG right? Well, what if a few more details were to shake loose such as:
- A federal grant in the amount of $750,000 is available to compensate for the expense – but estimates from the district put the total cost at nearly $1.2 Million – Who pays for the extra? (Moreover, aren’t we paying for it anyway as part of the good ol’ USA).
- The CNG station is to be available to the public 24-hours a day. Umm… so this begs the question… When did public education suddenly become the owner of a gas station? Would this be appropriate? Yet, the grant stipulations are that the CNG station must be “available” to the public 24 hours a day. So does that mean that the district would have to staff it? How much will that cost? And who will provide the services to the public required to make the CNG available if not staffed? I still can’t get over this 24 hour thing…
- CNG is currently available for about $2.19 to $2.70/ gallon, but with the BTU rating of CNG, it actually takes more CNG fuel to move a vehicle the same distance as gasoline or diesel, further eroding any positive benefits of this endeavor.
- There is not proposed cost benefit analysis – nor is there a detailed analysis done for the true expenses of this project. Putting in a CNG fuel station alone is one expense, while being able to take advantage of it requires converting existing vehicles over to CNG use. This is typically a 30% up-charge of the vehicle value. By itself, this expense represents potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars more.
Once the federal grant has been exhausted… what is the on-going maintenance and support cost? Has anyone done an analysis on how long the equipment lasts? How much maintenance and upkeep do the pumps and compressors require? Does Higley Unified School District (emphasis on school) really need to compete with private enterprise? Oh wait… there is no massive demand for CNG in the community. Why is that?
Why don’t we see more CNG vehicles? For a few years there was a glut of CNG vehicles along with special license plates that gave HOV privileges on the freeways… where are they now? Is it because the government subsidies for shoving a “green” program down our throats was simply found to be cost foolish and simply not viable? What has change? Why is HUSD so excited about putting a gas station on school grounds? If the private market can’t make a go of CNG without grants and subsidies that are ultimately paid for by the faceless/nameless tax-payer, then why would we think this is a good idea?
Yet, you have to wonder what the motivations are of the Superintendent and Board members who are supporting this effort. What of Denise Standage who as Board President approves items for the agenda? Why would this be part of the consent agenda? You would think that something like this would be ground-breaking news-worthy content. You’d think the district would be heralding this idea as a promotional event to bring visibility to Higley. What a marketing opportunity… but like some of the most important news of our day… it’s buried in consent agenda and hardly ever noticed.
If you believe that a school district should be focusing on education rather than investing in the oil/fuel industry… If you feel that voting to spend money in this fashion while still asking for a 10% budget override is financially reprehensible… and if you believe that an issue like this should be discussed openly before the public rather than buried in consent agenda with no details afforded to the public… then you should make your voice heard. Email the district and the board by sending an email to board members at HUSD.
To see the details of the proposal click: HUSD – CNG Agenda Item – Board Mtg on 09 10 13
To see the board agenda click: Notice_of_Governing_Bd_Mtg_09-10-13