Bertie schools appeal for new bus garage

Published 6:10 pm Sunday, April 27, 2014

WINDSOR – Bertie County Public Schools Superintendent Elaine White went before the Bertie County Board of Commissioners at their meeting here Monday night to make an appeal for a new school bus garage.

In February, the county’s Board of Education voted to allot $900,000 of their fund balance to the building of a new bus garage.

The current facility is very outdated and needs to be replaced.

“It is no longer adequate for the maintenance of the current fleet,” White told the commissioners. “The gentlemen who work over there are cold in the winter and burning up in the summer, and we have to do something to get our employees out of that old building.”

Hite Associates of Greenville, builders of the new Bertie High School, came up with a design for a new bus garage.

White says among the options explored were to relocate the garage to the site of  Bertie High School, after renovations, once the current school is vacated for the new one that will open on property located across US 13.

“My board thought that would be too risky because that is a 50-year old building and we don’t know what the cost would be or what we would find going into that building,” White said.

White said the school board was advised that the most economical way to proceed was with a new metal building, approximately 9,000 square feet, which would include four bays, a parts room, tire storage, fluid storage for things such as antifreeze, motor oil and grease, and a few offices.

The Board proposed locating the new garage on County Farm Road next to the school’s maintenance facility on what is a nine-acre, mostly wooded lot. White said the plan was to cut and sell the timber on the nine acres, build the new bus garage on about one acre of this property, and have eight acres graded, compacted, and stoned to the point that all of the county’s school buses could be parked there for summer overhaul and repair.

However, after a review of the plan White says she learned that the $900,000 quite possibly wouldn’t be enough to cover the building and the site work; and that amount is the most that the Board of Education can propose.

“We need this land, or some land, to park the buses,” White said. “That’s the problem: the building could go there, but then there would be no place to park the buses.”

Bertie school buses are currently parked on County Farm Road and on the property where the present Board of Education building is located.

“But when we move to the current high school site we must have some other answer near the bus garage,” the superintendent maintained.

White provided an illustration of the property on County Farm Road, saying it showed that if the new garage were built on land currently owned by the county, which already has a surface of rock, asphalt, or a concrete base, then to build the garage on this location would provide a savings to the county on site work.

Furthermore, the superintendent stated that following a tour of the proposed site with schools Maintenance Director Matthew Bond and schools Transportation Director William Ledford, there would be space to park the 85-bus county fleet and that the diesel bus fueling pumps and tanks would not need to be moved.

“When we complete the construction we would then take down the old bus garage, leave the concrete floor, and design a plan whereby we could park the buses for summer work,” White said.

White summed up her presentation with a request to the commissioners to donate a portion of the county land to the Board of Education for the construction of the garage and parking area, or roughly a three-and-a-half to four acre tract.

“Please keep in mind that the state will not allow a school system to build a structure on a site they do not own,” White said in closing.

During discussion, Commissioner Rick Harrell asked the school board to consider contracting out county school bus maintenance, and Commissioner Ronald “Ron” Wesson asked why the County Farm Road site was preferred, and what the final cost would be. White said there may be an additional cost for clearing away the old garage building

“I would like to see what that estimate is because even though it’s in the budget it’s still a capital expense and we’d have to approve it,” said Wesson.

After being told that the diesel fuel pumps would not have to be moved, Commissioner John Trent inquired about the pumps age.

“I’ve been there 29 years,” said Bond, “and those pumps have been there probably 28 years.

Trent cautioned that pump replacement may have to be a future consideration.

The commissioners agreed to consider the superintendent’s request.

Before leaving the floor, White asked if a decision had been made by the Commissioners regarding the Board’s offer to turn over to the county the Board of Education’s office building at 222 County Farm Road once it is vacated and the offices are moved to the old Bertie High School.  Commission chairman J. Wallace Perry stated that no decision had been made.

“We will let you know something shortly,” Perry assured the superintendent.