By Tyler Pruett, Managing Editor (Correction from Print: This article was mistakenly listed as written by "Marla Jones, Sports Editor" in our print edition.)
RAINSVILLE, Ala. — In the past few months, the DeKalb County Board of Education has found itself in a sticky situation when it comes to the bus garage.
Recently, the county buses were nearly evicted from their Fort Payne location after selling the garage to the Fort Payne water board. The board of education (BOE) sold their old location to the water department in anticipation of building a new location in Rainsville, after purchasing property adjoining the Technology Center early this year.
While the BOE had sold their old facility to the City of Fort Payne, the county buses still needed a location to store the buses when not in use and perform routine maintenance as well as safety inspections. The city agreed to allow the county to continue utilizing the facility until August, in exchange for rent paid.
This would have only allowed the county a few months to build a new home. When August arrived, however, no new garage had been built, and in October the city was ready to evict. Fortunately, Fort Payne agreed to let them extend their stay until at least January.
But the problems don’t end with the eviction notice.
In late February, shortly before Alabama’s primary elections, Superintendent Hugh Taylor ran a ‘Letter to the Editor’ in the Southern Torch regarding the decision to move the bus garage and sell the old property.
In the letter, Superintendent Taylor said, “The approximate replacement cost to build a new bus maintenance facility ranges from $300,000 to $400,000. Therefore, this undertaking stands to pay for itself in 7 years (referring to the money saved by not driving the buses to Fort Payne on a daily basis).”
The county opened the single bid submitted for the bus garage last month, and we obtained the documents to see what the cost will be to the county.
According to the documents, the total cost estimate will be $2,431,856.00 for a new garage, over $2 million higher than anticipated. The only bid was submitted by Boatner Construction of Gadsden.
Bid Submitted for the garage:
McKinney Construction of Centre and Tolar Construction of Scottsboro were also listed on the document, but failed to submit bids. The job is also estimated by Boatner to take 4 months. If the county decides they want to go forward with the project in January, this means that the BOE will need to continue paying rent on the old facility until at least summer 2017.
That is, if the school board decides to continue with the project. With the price tag being much higher than anticipated, the county may very well decide to find another solution.
Superintendent-Elect Jason Barnett, who will take office at the head of the DeKalb County Board of Education at the start of the new year, is already weighing options when it comes to finding the county buses a new home.
"We’re going to have to look back at that drawing, and scale back, and try to find something that fits within our budget, but yet still provides the transportation department all the tools and equipment that they need to do their job effectively," Barnett said, when asked how the board plans on handling the large price tag.
"There were some things that were put in there that shouldn’t have been in my opinion. There are some things that we can live without right now and maybe add to it down the road," he added.
When asked how they'll get some competition in the bidding process, Dr. Barnett said,"I think we’ll probably try to do a more diligent job of advertising it."
"We only really had one bid that came in. We want to do a more diligent job promoting it. Maybe some more interest in bidding on it, might get more competition and drive the price down a little bit," said Barnett.
Finding a new home for the county's buses will surely be a hot topic in the coming year at the DeKalb County Board of Education. Whatever the solution, it will no doubt take careful planning and consideration by Dr. Barnett and the board members.