Routine upkeep of 50 buses is a lot of work.

Routine upkeep of 50 buses is a lot of work.

Jeff Kasperski, head mechanic, and technician Todd Buerge stay busy all year long for the Carthage R-9 School District. Cathy Dunn, transportation director for the district, said even though school is called off, the bus barn keeps active.

“Our mechanics, maintenance and custodial staff don't get snow days,” she said. “They stay busy plowing snow in the parking lots, scraping the sidewalks and laying down ice melt. Right now, our mechanics are rotating our buses around, pulling them into our wash bay and getting the snow and ice off of them so it doesn't fall off down the road.”

Looking over the bus barn area, Kasperski pointed out that due to the wind, the snow only piled up on the buses on the north side.

“We keep our buses on engine block heaters during the break and that keeps the anti-freeze at a warmer temperature so they'll start up easy in the morning,” he said. “Mostly, we're getting ready for the state inspection in March.”

Every bus is checked for more than 300 details during this inspection, and last year, Carthage missed only one.

“It was for a lose shackle pin,” Kasperski said, “we're going for 100 percent this year.”
Through the course of the year, Kasperski and  Buerge spend most of their time with preventative maintenance. So when Old Man Winter comes, it's just another season.

“We have a wonderful program so we feel comfortable when we go into winter,” Kasperski said. “Anything can happen out on the road, so that's why we have extra buses. We don't hesitate to pull one if we think something wrong with it.”

Kasperski has been a mechanic for 36 years, a little less than two years ago, he signed on as Carthage's head mechanic. Buerge, who also drives a bus, has been with the district a total of 22 years.

After Buerge graduated from Carthage High School in 1984, he enlisted in the National Guard and spent six years in active duty during the Gulf War. Then, from 2005-2007 he served in Iraq. In May, he will have served in the Guard for 19 years with the 294th Engineer Company in Carthage. Buerge said he never imagined he would return to the Carthage School District.

“It don't bother me at all,” he said. “Traveling by bus is one of the safest forms of transportation. These things are built like tanks. And I couldn't ask for a better supervisor – they know we know what needs to be done. And I don't ever want to do a half-done job; these kids are someone's babies. We do our part to keep them all safe.”