New RTA hub progress forces quick decision for Talawanda on buses

The Talawanda school board was recently forced to make a decision on a major expense sooner than expected.

When the district sold the old high school property on East Chestnut Street to Miami University, it was granted a lease to continue using the transportation and facilities maintenance buildings at the east end of the property. That delayed the need for a decision on where to relocate them but it has recently become known a decision would need to be made.

It was just a shock when the district learned they had to decide by early July.

The board has been told for months the Butler County Regional Transit Authority (BCRTA) has been negotiating with Miami to build a transportation hub on the site of the current bus and maintenance facility. That would displace the district’s operations there, but with the option of buying in to the project and staying there after construction.

Superintendent Ed Theroux told the board at its meeting on June 21 that BCRTA had obtained a federal grant for the project with a short timeline requiring design and construction to be completed sooner than originally thought. That meant the district needed to decide whether to go in on the BCRTA project or build its own facility elsewhere in the district.

“Our lease ends April 30, 2022 and we will need a bus area,” Theroux said. “We need to recommend something good for Talawanda and will serve the district into the future.”

District Treasure Shaunna Tafelski said July 15 is the deadline for BCRTA to have everything in place including an anticipated 40-year lease for the property with Miami with Requests for Proposals in the fall and groundbreaking in the spring.

“At that time, we will not have the bus and facilities building we have now,” she told the board.

Theroux and Tafelski presented three alternatives:

  • Buy in to the BCRTA, presumably with a 40-year lease, for $3.07 million or eliminate some square footage for a cost of $2.2 million, which would leave no room for expansion
  • Buy in with the BCRTA, also presumably for 40 years but for the transportation portion only, at an estimated cost of $1.4 million and build a separate maintenance facility elsewhere at an estimated cost of $1.2 million for a $2.6 million estimated total cost
  • Build their own facility with the same footprint as the current space, possibly at the high school or middle school sites, at an estimated cost of $2.4 million.

Theroux and Tafelski agreed they recommended that third option to the board because the district would then own the facilities rather than deferring another decision for 40 years.

A motion to move forward with plans for two new buildings was passed unanimously.

A side issue which came up in the discussion was the fuel purchasing partnership. Currently the district, city and BCRTA jointly purchase fuel and then track their usage on pumps near the current transportation and facilities buildings on the grounds of the former high school. The question came up whether that partnership would continue and Theroux said he thought it would.

Board President Chris Otto asked if a plan to build separately would include that fuel partnership.

Tafelski said, “It is our desire to do so.”

Theroux said the partnership benefits all three entities and he saw no problem with it continuing, although there had been no discussions of it.

“It’s not just to our benefit but it helps the city and BCRTA to share. We get a better price,” he said.

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