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County bus handy, but isn't used much

Staff writer

No limousine services operate within the limits of Marion County. That doesn’t mean community groups can’t ride in style — as long as a 25-year-old converted school bus fits their definition of stylish.

A bus owned by the county sits collecting dust most of the year, but can be used by groups in search of a way to transport several people at once. Community-oriented groups don’t have to pay anything beyond the cost of gas and paying the driver, said County Economic Development Director Teresa Huffman.

The vehicle, a 1990 model, used to operate as a substitute school bus in the Goessel school district. Huffman said the county economic development council purchased the bus in 2007 for $1,600. The council has since dissolved, and Huffman’s department controls the bus’s operation.

After the bus was purchased, it received a paint job courtesy of Arlie’s Body Shop. Its classic mustard yellow became light blue with a silver top, and it was christened with the words “Marion County Tourism” on each of its sides. A quote reads “We’re tourin’ Marion County!” just behind the driver’s seat and passenger door.

Marion County Power Ups used it last week to transport individuals from Marion to the Coneburg Inn in Peabody, where they held their monthly meeting.

Terry Jones, who organizes Power Ups, said he knew of the bus’s availability from working for the city of Marion, where he is city economic development director.

Individuals who rode the bus had to sign liability releases, and donated $5 apiece to offset the costs.

Huffman said community groups may use the bus if they are doing so for the betterment of the county. Individuals may as well, with an added per-person charge.

“We have to always remember the intent,” she said. “It would depend what the group is all about.”

Huffman lets churches use it, and plans to take groups on it for barn quilt tours once the county completes its barn quilt tour route.

“We don’t use it a lot, but I think as time goes along, we’ll use it more and more,” she said.

Woodrow Crawshaw is the bus’s unofficial driver, as Huffman is familiar with him and knows he has a commercial driver’s license, which is required to operate the bus.

“It doesn’t get moved much, but when it does move, I’m the one moving it,” Crawshaw said.

Huffman also occasionally uses it, just to fill up the gas tank.

“I don’t have a commercial driver’s license, but if there’s no one else in the vehicle with me, I can drive it,” she said.

The bus has sat in the parking lot across from Webster’s Auto Services in Marion since it was purchased. Huffman praised Webster’s owner Barry Allen as an “awesome guy” for letting the county use his space “by his good graces.”

The county doesn’t tell Allen when they want to use it.

“I just notice it’s gone,” Allen said. He said he’s just letting the county park it there.

“It’s not hurting anything,” he said. “It makes it more visible.”

Webster’s does maintenance on the bus when necessary. It had its brakes worked on in 2011 and also has had a battery replaced.

The bus used to have a CB radio, but that has been removed. It has an AM/FM radio, but that no longer works.

Allen has seen the bus used less in recent years.

“It doesn’t seem like we get quite as many tours as we used to, I don’t know if they died off or if it was just popular for a while,” he said. “It seems like a good way to show everybody around the county. They can see it all at once.”

Last modified Jan. 28, 2015

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