New bus garage for Talawanda Schools to cost $3.5M and be on high school property

Plans for a Talawanda District Maintenance and Bus Garage to be built on the high school property have been approved. FILE PHOTO

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Plans for a Talawanda District Maintenance and Bus Garage to be built on the high school property have been approved. FILE PHOTO

OXFORD – Plans for a Talawanda District Maintenance and Bus Garage to be built on the high school property were approved at the board’s July 7 meeting. A work session was held earlier in the day to hear a report on the project and review costs.

The cost — $3.5 million — is considerably higher than the original estimate but that is due to the increased costs of materials which have risen during delays in the planning process.

The board heard from Jason Willis, of Brumbaugh Construction, via Zoom, during the work session and he walked them through the plans and costs. The new facility is to be built on the left side of University Boulevard as you drive toward the high school. There is a curve in the road and as you are in the curve, you would be looking directly at the building, Willis said.

“There are no frills in here. It is a very utilitarian design,” Willis told the board. “The current building has quite a lot of storage on the main floor. This will be a little bit cramped. The existing meeting and break room is three times larger than this. This is a good, solid design for what it needs to work for.”

There are meetings for the entire bus driver staff, but it was noted those can be moved into the high school building for a larger space.

That current building is the one the district has used for many years on the site of the former high school building. Miami University purchased that property from the district after the current high school building opened, That garage is to be torn down and replaced with a new facility for the Butler County Regional Transit Authority.

The university has been leasing that old building to the district in the years since, but the lease runs out this fall as plans move forward to demolish it.

The district was offered an opportunity to be a part of that new facility with a 40-year lease, but the board had decided to build their own bus/maintenance facility to be assured of a permanent one, not dependent on a lease.

“You’ve got your own everything and do not need to share.” Willis said.

District Treasurer and CFO Shaunna Tafelski said planners for the new BCRTA building are going through the same cost increases the district is facing and she does not know what the district’s shared cost of that project would be now.

Depending on the status of that project, she said, the district may be able to obtain an extension of the lease on the old building beyond the September 30 date, but there is no guarantee and they will need to come up with a plan to serve in the interim until the new facility is completed.

Willis said it is estimated as an eight-month project, saying that approval at that evening’s meeting would allow contracts to be signed this past week. He said enough of the materials to be ordered would allow work to begin September 1. Having them delivered by that date could be a challenge, he cautioned.

“The early part of May 2023 is the tentative completion date,” Willis said.

The new facility will have separate areas for the bus maintenance and other maintenance needs with a fire wall in between the two parts. The bus section will have two pull-through bays with an office for the transportation supervisor on the second-floor mezzanine, which will also be used for storage.

The building will have a two-tone exterior to mimic the high school building. That was one of the requirements put in place by the city during the permitting process, another was asphalt driveways rather than gravel.

Referring to the two-tone exterior, Willis said, “You would want that, too. You do not want it to look like a shed just popped up there.”

The asphalt and gravel base was one of the more expensive items on the cost list Willis provided to the board, coming in at $471,000. The biggest single item was the building shell itself with a liner panel, at $574,800.

District Facilities Director Bill Hubbard told the board the new facility will be in a good location, noting the city had originally wanted it at the far end of the school property but he said that would have “blown the budget” only laying the conduit for electric and water service to the building. There will be fencing with privacy slats around the entire building and conduit will be put in place for future use when there is a conversion to electric-powered buses.

As it is, the facility will have a tank for diesel bus fuel and Tafelski said they will contract with the city to use unleaded fuel for the buses requiring that. Buying a tank for both diesel and unleaded would be cost prohibitive, she said.

The board voted unanimously to approve the contract with Brumbaugh Construction for the project at the evening’s regular monthly meeting.

Board Vice President Rebecca Howard repeated a comment she had made that morning regarding the need for the district owning the building.

“We went over the cost and how prices have increased in the construction industry, due to fuel and materials costs,” she said. “It important to recognize when we first decided to move ahead, there was buy-in to owning the site. We would not own anything (sharing the other site with BCRTA). This is all or nothing. The other options are we buy in to the BCRTA project or we discontinue transportation.”

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