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CMS fuel supply looking good

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools hopes to lift its fuel-saving ban on after-hours busing as early as Saturday, officials said today.

By the end of the day Tuesday, the district had a little more than two days' diesel on hand, including 18,000 gallons pulled from the CATS bus service reserve. CMS received another 22,250 gallons today, enough to run the district's 1,270 buses and add to the reserve.

If Thursday's delivery also arrives, CMS expects to lift its ban on field trips, middle-school sports and some after-school programs.

Interim Chief Operating Officer Tyler Ream said he hopes to announce plans for next week on Thursday afternoon or Friday morning. If the supply looks good, he said, he'll also clear the way for Saturday busing to high-school band trips and other scheduled events.

CMS restricted after-hours busing on Monday, after Hurricane Ike disrupted fuel supplies from the Gulf Coast. The district has storage for 70,000 gallons of diesel, a little more than three days' supply for buses covering 141,000 miles a day. Missed deliveries had the reserve down to one day by the end of Monday.

Associate Superintendent Guy Chamberlain said he hopes to double CMS's storage capacity by the end of this school year, leaving busing less vulnerable to shortages in future hurricane seasons. A 40,000-gallon storage facility is under construction, due to open this fall, and Chamberlain said he hopes to get clearance to spend $300,000 to $400,000 to build another that would open in spring.

Chamberlain said CMS has avoided the “predatory pricing” he had feared if suppliers had to go outside normal channels; CMS has continued to pay the $3.22 a gallon set out in the state contract. That price can rise or fall based on market conditions.