Long awaited bus garage open for business
A grand opening was held last week for the newly renovated building in Bardane that is now home to the Jefferson County Board of Education’s bus garage. An official ribbon cutting was held as members of the Board of Education, past and present, were joined by members of the staff and community to celebrate the opening of the facility.
Ralph Dinges, assistant superintendent of Jefferson County schools, shared that the prior bus garage located in Shenandoah Junction had a total of 5,000 square feet. The new facility encompasses 52,240 square feet. This space, he said, allows for an expanded office area as well as bays for bus repair.
The new space has eight bays, seven of which are for buses while the final one allows for repairs on other vehicles. At the previous garage, Dinges said, there were three bays but none of those held a full bus.
“Now mechanics can inspect buses at the same time as they are repairing other buses,” Dinges said.
Scott Sudduth, president of the Board of Education, explained that the state does not provide funding for facilities such as the bus garage. Therefore, he said, the leaders of the school system had to work to provide this necessary space.
“We looked at building from scratch,” Sudduth said, “but we couldn’t justify spending the $8 million it would cost.”
In 2014, Sudduth said the Jefferson County Development Authority was instrumental in helping locate a vacant building in the Bardane Industrial Park. By modifying the structure, the Board of Education was able to complete the garage at a cost of only $4 million; saving half of what it would have been to build from scratch.
“This is a great story with community leaders working together to address a real need,” Sudduth told attendees Friday. “I am proud to have been a small part of it.”
Funding for the garage was gleaned from impact fee dollars as well as revenue from gaming that is allocated specifically to Jefferson County Schools.
Superintendent Bondy Shay-Gibson spoke about the community support that came into play with the project.
“We support our community, we support their children, and in turn, they support us. The community supports us with funding and they support us with buildings and facilities like this. The levy vote was a very visible symbol of that,” Gibson said.
Gibson shared that the new space, along with housing the improved and larger bus garage, offers a home for the school nutrition department. An industrial freezer offers storage for foodstuffs that was not previously available to the school system.
“Buying bulk food and having a place to store it could save as much as $75,000 over three years,” she said.
“The school system is the heart of a community,” Gibson said. “We have been responsible stewards.”