Defeated: Bus Maintenance Facility Project

As a new superintendent, I inherited a big problem. It’s one that’s been percolating for some time and I’ve written about it here and here. To make a long story short, there was a proposition put up twice to the taxpayers of Randolph, once in May 2008 and once in October 2008, that carried a lot of animosity in the community. It was a proposition to purchase property with the possible future project of building a bus garage. It was defeated both times. I get it, the community clearly said “no” to purchasing property to build a new garage and we aren’t permitted to tear down our current garage and build a new one because the location is too close to our school buildings. Plus, our current garage suffices and heck, look at the number of people who don’t have a garage for their personal vehicles.

But we still have a problem with the safety and size of our mechanics bays. It’s a problem that I either have to fix or eliminate. We put forth a project on May 19 during the regular public vote for an addition to the current bus garage which also replaced the roof on the whole garage and made improvements to the lighting throughout. Because we’re a state entity, we were also required to add a handicapped bathroom and adhere to all code requirements. Not as simple as building a garage in your yard. This addition was our best option to solve the problem, be responsible to our taxpayers and continue to service our own fleet of vehicles.

It was Proposition #3 and it was defeated; No 244, Yes 243. One vote, one person I could have influenced would have made the difference. I know, I know closeness only counts in . . .

After berating myself for three days that I didn’t do a good enough job of communicating the seriousness of the problem to enough people in enough ways, I’m still left with a mechanics bay that’s too small with an outdated hydraulic lift that can’t continue forever. People who focused on the previous votes or the fact that we could continue to get our buses inspected at a neighboring school probably voted “no”. The DOT won’t inspect our buses in our mechanics’ bay and some taxpayers thought that was the driving issue. Actually, the inspections are a small part of the problem–it’s the need for an adequate facility to do daily maintenance on our fleet that’s the issue.

Rear view of a bus in our mechanics bay. Side View of Mechanics Bay  Front View of Mechanics Bay

Paying our mechanics to maintain and service our buses costs us about 25-50% of what our costs will be if we have to outsource the work to a garage elsewhere. This should have been what I helped everyone to understand–it should have been where the focus was in considering the proposition. I knew it, the Board knew it, the 32 people at the Public Hearing knew it and the 30 people who watched the video on the website knew it. But what more could I have done to make sure everyone else knew it?

A lot. I should have done a lot more to be sure everyone understood the whole issue. I guess I just kept assuming they would know that if we put it up, we really did need it. I mean, what do people think I want this addition for? It’s not like I’m planning to run a chop shop out there at night for extra money! But have I earned that kind of trust in this community in six months? No.

So now what do I do? Here are our options as I see it:

  1. Discontinue the use of the lift. Outsource all work that the mechanics can’t do without it.
  2. Put the project up for another vote and do a better job of communicating the entire problem to the community.
  3. Try to make adaptations to the current lift and the bay to make it more useful.

Option #1–how is spending more out of our community to do the same work a good option in any way? Option #2–what are my odds of passing it at a second vote? Is it worth it to spend the money to run another vote? Option #3– We’re hoping to meet with the company who services the lift next week. As I understand it, we can’t even buy parts any more. And the other problem is that spending on this is extremely limited to equipment codes already budgeted for in the 2009-10 budget and anything significant is subject to SED and voter approval.

Right back where I started from. So again Randolph Readers, I ask you, what do you think? What’s our best option? Or is there another option I haven’t thought of out there?

2 Comments
  1. Is it possible to work with the state to use the land Weeden Road? This seems to be a great place. It is close and has plenty of space for all the buses. Is Flooding and poor soil the reasons in which the state would not help fund the project. I have a hard time believing the area will flood and a sound foundation could not be made since, half of Randolph is in the same flood plain and on the same soil.

    Dan

  2. I believe you and the board should put the bus garage addition up to a second vote. The public did not understand what was happening with the bus garage. I heard people thought the land purchase was going up to vote again. Not only do we need to have the work on the buses done by our own mechanics, I also fear that we bus drivers will be out of a job.Please put this up to a vote a second time with a lot more information going out to the public.
    Thanks, ken Tropp

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