By Ted Waddell
ELDRED April 15, 2003 The folks at Eldred Central School are worried about their fleet of school buses rusting away at a rented bus garage.
So they are asking local taxpayers to give them $1.25 million to pay for a new district-owned bus garage. That, officials say, will save money over time and can be built at "minimal to no additional impact to taxpayers . . . based on current estimates."
The district has been renting the current bus facility on Proctor Road since 1983. Last year's rental was $26,400. The bus garage is owned by Bruce Frazier.
District officials said at Thursdays informational meeting that when the existing bus garage was constructed, it met district needs to service a single bus run to a K-12 building. At that time, the district owned approximately 11 buses.
By the time the 2002-03 school year rolled around, the district owned 22 buses and was running a double-bus run to two buildings: a junior/senior high school (7-12) on Route 55 in Eldred and Mackenzie Elementary School (K-6) in Glen Spey.
The current bus garage cannot properly accommodate the larger buses appropriately," said Superintendent Candace Mazur.
At Thursday's meeting at Mackenzie Elementary, district business official Dan Grecco used a Powerpoint presentation to explain "assumptions" related to estimated costs associated with constructing a new district-owned bus garage a debt rate (conservative) of 5.75 percent repaid over 25 years.
Grecco said the total estimated cost of the building project was $1.25 million ($661,870 general construction, $202,869 site development, $247,485 incidental and $137,776 financing).
He said that based on current estimates, the net amount added to the annual tax levy would be $48,950.
In explaining how the financial rubber meets the school tax road, Grecco said that if the district gets state aid, it's going to cost local taxpayers an additional $12 per $100,000 of their assessed property values. If the district doesn't get state aid, its going to cost local folks $18 per $100,000 more a year.
According to district officials, the main areas of improvement (if a new garage is approved by voters) are fourfold: cost efficiency of heat distribution, improved bathroom facilities, on-site training for drivers and the ability to service three buses simultaneously.
The proposed bus garage building would measure 60' x 80' and contain three repair bays (two with lifts), a transportation manager's office, training/lunch room, storage room, storage loft, and men's/women's restrooms.
The exterior would feature a chain link security fence, a paved parking lot (for buses, drivers and teachers), a retaining wall, a paved walkway and evergreen trees to screen the bus garage.
Something needs to be done to improve working conditions and [create] an environment that is conducive to the long-term maintenance of vehicles," said Michael D. Lesick, education consultant for Foit-Albert Associates of Albany.
Craig S. Lamoreaux, safety manager/construction manager from Thomas Management Services of Ithaca, told the audience that the architects responded to public concerns that the original site of the proposed new bus garage would block the sight line in front of the school by recommending it be constructed on a slope near the old student parking lot near the upper athletic fields.
Mitch Bucher is the district's new transportation coordinator.
"The building has become too small for our needs, and the mud up here is just horrendous," he said.
Bucher said that if his maintenance workers pull a second bus into the old garage, it blocks access to the bathroom and he can't get to the upstairs office. And buses parked outside sink up to their axles in mud.
Last week, we had two buses just sunk right up to their A-frames," he said. "The buses are parked in mud, and rusting right out."
Bucher said a school bus costs about $69,000 to $72,000, and that's a lot of money to watch sitting there rusting away in the mud.
I'd love to have a new, larger bus garage," he said. "It would save the district money, and give us room to grow [as more students enter the district]."
The second public informational meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 8 at 7 p.m. in the junior/senior high school library.
Residents of the Eldred Central School District will decide the fate of the $1.25 million bond referendum for a district-owned bus garage facility on Tuesday, May 20.
The polls will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Eldred Junior/Senior High School, located at 600 Route 55 in Eldred.
For information, call 557-6141.