$3.5 million new bus barn idea wheeled out to BoE

Fayette County School System Facilities Director Mike Satterfield in a photo from early 2013 by Ben Nelms.

A proposal made Monday to the Fayette County Board of Education could lead to a new location for the school system’s transportation department and the facility used to store and maintain school buses. The school board voted 4-1 to have the project designed and returned for a possible vote to proceed.

The bus shop, sometimes called the bus barn, and the school system’s transportation department building are located behind the school board headquarters on Stonewall Avenue in Fayetteville.

A proposal by facilities director Mike Satterfield would have the bus barn and transportation department moved to the old fairgrounds location at the Goza Road complex on Ga. Highway 85 South adjacent to Whitewater High School. The proposed facility would be attached to the existing warehouse on the old fairgrounds property.

“We’ve taken this as far as it can go without further permission to pursue it as a project,” said Superintendent Jody Barrow.

In terms of location, Satterfield at the Jan. 13 meeting said the Goza Road complex is within approximately two miles of the geographic center of the county which is located near Harp Road and Redwine Road. Access to Peachtree City has been enhanced by the realignment of Bernhard Road at Hwy. 85 immediately to the south and with the installation of a traffic light at the intersection, Satterfield said.

Asked by board member Barry Marchman if the bus barn would be better located in a population center rather than the geographic center, Satterfield said Goza location would amount to a “straight shot” to Peachtree City by way of Bernhard Road.

Another reason for using the Goza Road property deals with the fact that the site work is largely already complete, Satterfield said, noting that the site was the location of the former county fair.

Beyond the 16 bus bays, lift areas and various storage and work areas related to bus maintenance the barn would be outfitted with approximately a dozen offices, two work rooms, a conference room and a training room to seat 250 people.

Satterfield said the existing warehouse building, the old Kiwanis building, has a large septic system in place along with restrooms and a kitchen facility. The warehouse could be used for pulling buses in for various types of training, Satterfield said, adding that the new facility would accommodate all 258 buses. The new building would essentially match the existing warehouse building, said Satterfield.

By way of comparison, Satterfield said the current bus shop has 12 bays and is 162 feet in length and 100 feet wide. The proposed bus shop would have 16 bays and would be 216 in length and 110 feet in width. The design of the proposed bus barn would provide sufficient overhang to allow for some maintenance activities without having to pull a bus into the building if all bays were currently being used, Satterfield said.

Barrow at the Jan. 13 meeting said the training portion of the facility could be used for instructional training purposes in addition to the space at the Lafayette Education Center and other school system facilities. It was noted during the discussion that the transportation department currently uses off-site facilities for training.

Satterfield said discussions with Fayetteville indicated that a traffic problem exists once school begins each year.

“The buses add a significant amount of traffic inside the city limits, including 250 buses coming to the transportation area to refuel then proceeding to the intersection of Stonewall and Hwy. 85,” Satterfield said.

A discussion on the proposed project came up two weeks ago but was continued Monday night after Marchman said he had not received sufficient time to review the proposal.

Marchman on Monday said information he received in the past two weeks revealed that moving the bus barn to the Goza location could eliminate the need for 10 school buses and could save approximately $1 million and would be able to increase the school system’s fuel storage capacity.

Board member Leonard Presberg two weeks ago said the board had talked about an alternative location for the bus barn on other occasions over the years. Marchman countered, saying this was the first time the topic had come up during his time on the board.

Board member Mary Kay Bacallao also weighed in, saying she was completely against spending any tax dollars on this kind of upgrade when “we have properties all over the county that are unused and vacant and students attending classes in portable units such as Whitewater High School.” Bacallao also cited the absence of a traffic signal at Goza Road, adding that the site is not centrally located in terms of the other schools and in terms of population.

Satterfield said buses could use the Goza Road/Bernhard Road intersection at the school system property to access the traffic light at Bernhard Road and Hwy. 85. In his comments, Dep. Superintendent Sam Sweat noted the upcoming installation of a traffic light at Hwy. 85 and Harp Road to the north.

Presberg during the discussion two weeks ago noted that moving the facility from its location near downtown would provide an opportunity to do something different with current property in Fayetteville.

Satterfield said the general estimated project cost totaled approximately $3.5 million, though that cost could deviate by several hundred thousand dollars. The cost of the building itself might run $2.2 million with the remainder used for site work. The cost of that work, for example, would depend on whether a portion of the site is paved rather than using the current gravel bed. If approved, said Satterfield, the project could potentially be completed by the summer of 2015.

Barrow said he believed bond money could be used for the project and with SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) dollars used to supplement it.

The vote to move ahead with the design phase was 4-1, with Bacallao opposed.

The project will return to the board for consideration once the design is complete.

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