$3M school bus garage could be rolling by next June

CHARLES TOWN — School board members had their first look last week at plans for a new facility that will house the school system’s fleet of buses.

The new garage facility, which is set to be open by June 2015, is to be built on the site of the onetime Bardane Industrial Park’s Bercazi property. That company, which had been housed in two buildings on a little more than 11 acres at the park, intended to manufacture gelato frozen yogurt before going bankrupt in 2009. Bercazi this year sold the site to Jefferson County Schools for $3 million in an arrangement with the Economic Development Authority.

Plans for the new facility were presented by David Lipp, of Helbing, Lipp, and Recny Architects in Charles Town, which designed the project.

Lipp told the board the bids will be in two packages. The first will be for site work with a cost estimate of $1 million. The second package will be for construction. The total project is estimated to cost $3 million.

Bids for the first stage of the facility could be advertised by Aug. 18, Lipp said.

The project will include the renovation of a 50,000-square foot building to house nine bus repair bays, a light activity bay, classroom space for training and conferences, showers and areas for electrical work, said Ralph Dinges, assistant superintendent of construction, maintenance and facilities for the county.

“We are saving the taxpayers money by renovating an existing building instead of constructing a new building,” Dinges said.

The second building on the site will not be renovated. It will be used for storage.

Board President Scott Sudduth said the board has dedicated funds from table games revenue to the bus garage project.

Table games revenue is restricted by law to capital improvements and maintenance.

The existing bus facility, located near Jefferson High School on Shenandoah Road in Shenandoah Junction, is no longer large enough to contain operations, Dinges said.

That facility was built in 1972.

The new facility won’t be open until June next year but Dinges said that won’t affect the operation of the buses this year.

“The state gives us money to replace buses that need to be replaced every year,” Dinges said. “The bus fleet is in good shape.”

Sixty percent of Jefferson County’s 9,000 public school students get bused to school. The current bus fleet consists of 120 buses and 93 drivers with 10 substitute drivers.

Dinges said some drivers keep the buses they use at home, depending upon their route. If they live far away from the bus garage it makes no sense for them to go back and forth, Dinges said.

“We know where all the buses are at all times,” Dinges said. “We have a GPS system that we are currently updating. Parents will be able to find where buses are by going to a website that will be available when school starts.”

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