• Airport hybrid buses to be put on auction block

    By: Scott Wickersham


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is being forced to auction 10 hybrid-electric buses because the entire fleet is broken down.
    Anchor Scott Wickersham learned why they can't get them fixed.
    The airport bought the buses from DesignLine, the Charlotte bus company that former Mayor Anthony Foxx worked for.
    The company went bankrupt last year and the airport said it could no longer get any parts or service for the complex hybrid buses and one by one they broke down.
    The useless hybrid buses are sitting in a parking lot at the airport.
    The airport bought 10 of them from 2007 to 2011 for almost $5 million and they didn't look for better offers.
    The airport said it was allowed to enter a no-bid contract with DesignLine under something called a sole-source exemption because they were the only company in the region that makes them.
    The buses are now worth whatever they will fetch at an upcoming city auction.
    Airport facilities director Mark Weibke said diesel buses usually last seven to 10 years.
    “Did we get the life out of the buses we wanted? No,” he said.
    A few of the hybrids lasted that long but three they bought in 2011 for $450,000 each had just three years of service.
    “With the new technology, it’s not like a diesel our mechanics are used to working on. This takes a lot more technology,” Weibke said.
    Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes said he doesn't blame the airport but they should learn from it if they look into buying hybrids again.
    “I would want to know if replacements were used in other cities. If there is a high cost. If you get good life out of them,” Barnes said.
    It's a lesson that will end up being a costly one for the airport and taxpayers.
    The airport is an enterprise fund meaning it makes its own money to pay for things like buses.
    But they did use $1 million in taxpayer grants to buy the buses.
    Channel 9 tried to contact Foxx for his reaction to this story but did not hear back.

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