Russ Allen, Greater Albany Public Schools Director of Business and Operations, had a list of reasons during Monday’s school board meeting on why GAPS’ current transportation facility needs to be replaced, the most pressing of which included:
• The bus lift leans as it lifts vehicles due to an insufficient foundation.
• The cinder block walls between the bathrooms and shop are cracked and compromise privacy.
• The corner of the shop is sinking and compromises the safety of the building.
• The building contains asbestos in the first floor tiles.
• Rain water comes through the cracks in the shop walls.
The facility, located on 13th Ave. SE, was constructed in 1966. It’s unknown how many school buses were housed at the facility 50 years ago, but the district’s fleet grew by 18 buses between 2000 and 2019.
Allen said, to his knowledge, staff had been working on a new transportation facility since at least 2010.
“Definitely, the best bet from a fiscal standpoint is to use the 5 acres on Ferry Street,” Allen told the board, noting that the land-locked property, not actually on Ferry Street but close, was already owned by the district. He told the board that the district partnered with a storage unit project on the south of the property to create access and worked through wetland regulations. The property was also re-zoned to allow for the possibility of a transportation facility.
“In the design process, it was determined that the five-acre Ferry Street parcel would not be adequate and that the 2.6 acres of the adjoining Marion Street property would be required,” Allen wrote in a memo to the board which he explained Monday night, saying the proposed project utilized an additional 2.6 acres of a property on Marion Street the district also owned.
The project, estimated to cost $12.6 million, includes constructing a 43,000-square-foot building with 32 bus parking spaces, eight vehicle repair bays, administration area and driver’s support area.
According to Allen, the Oregon Department of Education would reimburse the district for 70% of the cost over a 25-year period.
“The district would essentially take out an $8.84 million, 25-year loan to partially fund the construction cost,” he wrote.
On Monday he confirmed the funding plan and further explained that the district could use the funds it received every year from the ODE for reimbursement to make payments on the mortgage loan. The sale of the existing transportation facility and the remaining 3.7 acres on Marion Street, Allen said, should yield an estimated $2.5 million, leaving a $1.29 deficit. He said that gap could be filled by using construction excise tax funds.
Board member Micah Smith questioned the stability of the ODE’s reimbursement payments. Allen said he had a “high level of confidence” that the reimbursement payments would continue.
Board chair Jennifer Ward inquired as to a timeline for the project — which the board took no action on Monday night. According to Allen, the project could be ready to bid by January and construct this spring.
The board may next take up the issue as an action item on its June 3 agenda.