The Dickson County School Board voted to accept a higher bid for eight new school buses based on the Transportation Department’s preferences despite having been criticized in a state audit for a similar action on bids for lawn care services. At Thursday night’s meeting, the board voted 5-1 to pay an additional $35,374 to purchase eight new Bluebird buses because they are preferred over Thomas buses by the mechanics at the bus garage and some bus drivers. A recent state audit listed a finding for the board voting last year to accept a higher bid for lawn care services because board members believed it was the “lowest and best bid” based on staff preferences. Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks said both brands of buses meet the state’s safety specifications, but there are some equipment differences that led the Transportation Department to prefer the Bluebird buses. “They do meet Tennessee specifications, but they do not meet the specifications, they are not equal to the specifications of what Dickson County has been accustomed to buying,” Weeks said. Mid-South Bus Center submitted the lowest bid of $722,492 for six 90-passenger buses and two 78-passenger buses. Central State Bus Sales submitted a bid of $757,866 for the preferred Bluebird buses, a difference of over $35,000. The school system is being forced to replace eight buses that must be taken out of service due to years or mileage limitations. Chairman Tim Potter said he understands there might be preferences for a particular model, but the more-than-$30,000 difference is almost the equivalent of a starting teacher’s salary and he would support the lower bid. Weeks said the school system needs to go ahead with a purchase because regardless of the model chosen, the prices will be increasing by three percent after the end of the year. The board voted 5-1 to go with the Transportation Department’s preference for the more expensive Bluebird buses with Potter casting the only dissenting vote. Weeks said the purchase orders would be expedited and the buses ordered before Jan. 1 to avoid the price increase.