Brookfield trustees on July 24 gave their blessing for the Department of Parks and Recreation to purchase a 2014 Chevy Elkhart Coach bus from the South East Association for Special Parks and Recreation, the organization the provides special recreation programming in the village.

Parks and Rec has never had a bus of its own, and SEASPAR recently offered its 2014 bus, which has a wheelchair lift, to the village for $12,000. The bus has 61,000 miles on it, but it reportedly was given once over from both mechanics in the Department of Public Works, who “believe this is a great deal for the price and the bus is in good condition,” according to a memo to the village board from Recreation Director Luke Gundersen.

During a discussion of the purchase during the village board’s committee of the whole meeting on July 24, Assistant Village Manager Stevie Ferrari said the bus, which seats 15, including the driver, would not only cut down on what the recreation department spends to rent buses, it will streamline transportation of kids in the before- and after-school STARS program.

Financial records obtained by the Landmark from the village indicate that in 2022, Brookfield spent about $26,000 in bus rental fees, much of that for day trips to museums, sporting events and other attractions. Year to date through June 2023, the village had spent about $8,000 on bus rentals.

The Parks and Recreation Department does have regular access to another SEASPAR bus, which is housed in Brookfield and which it uses to transport STARS and summer camp participants.

But the village’s access to that bus is limited, since SEASPAR uses the bus Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Perhaps as important, having its own bus will allow the department to increase enrollment in the STARS program and expand programming in the form of weekday trips for kids, teens and seniors.

“If we were to provide one bus trip [for senior citizens] per month, I project an additional $7,000 in revenue per year,” Gundersen wrote in his memo to the board.

Senior trips are in high demand, said Gundersen, and because the cost to rent a bus can be $500 per trip, that cost has to be rolled into the cost of the trip for the participants.

“At times, the extra cost to residents discourages them from signing up for the trip,” Gundersen said.

According to Gundersen, those additional program offerings – expanding enrollment and increasing day trip opportunities — could result in around $42,000 annually in revenue. 

While the bus purchase, wrapping it in Brookfield Parks & Rec graphics, fuel and vehicle maintenance will cost Brookfield about $18,000 in the first year, it would cost about $3,000 annually in fuel and maintenance costs in the future.

 Staff will be able to drive the bus, since a commercial driver’s license is not required for its operation.

While village trustees questioned how much life a 9-year-old bus with 61,000 miles on it had left in it, they agreed that Village Manager Timothy Wiberg should move ahead with a purchase agreement, which was for an amount below the level triggering village board approval.

“If you’re showing the revenue it can create even if it only lasted for two years, it would pay for itself and maybe another new bus,” said Trustee Katie Kaluzny, which she suggested might even be an electric-powered vehicle.

Trustee Nicole Gilhooley pointed out that owning a bus with a chair lift would allow the department to accommodate people with a wide range of abilities or mobility issues.

“It really looks like it could support a diverse group of participants who would be using it, and I think that’s really important,” Gilhooley said.