Johnstown bus maintenance facility unlikely to be on May ballot

Greater Johnstown School District officials say it’s becoming increasingly unlikely the district


Greater Johnstown School District officials say it’s becoming increasingly unlikely the district will put forth a referendum in May to build a bus maintenance facility.

School board president Robert Curtis said the board would need to approve a plan to build the facility by March 18 to put the issue before voters in May. He said he doesn’t know if the board can realistically meet the deadline.

“On the 18th we either have to say yes or no and if we’re not prepared to move forward then it can’t go on the ballot. I know all of us have worked hard to try to get it there, but I’m sure none of us want to rush into something we don’t want,” Curtis said.

The school board has been trying to find a plan to build the garage for about $2 million in construction costs. The board hired Binghamton-based BCK Architects & Engineers to design a maintenance facility. BCK’s initial price estimates ranged from $3.8 million to $4.5 million. The board balked at the high cost and hired Albany-based Greenman-Pedersen for $4,500 to give them a second opinion. Pedersen is expected to give the board a report at its Feb. 25 facilities committee meeting.

School board member Scott Miller, chairman of the board’s facilities committee, said BCK has since come back with a design in the board’s $2 million price range, but he said the design was unacceptable.

“It was not anything close to what we were looking to build,” Miller said. “As a committee we think we can get a pre-engineered steel building for about $2 million. We’re hoping [Greenman-Pedersen] can do it because they actually built a bus garage in Worcester, [Otsego County] New York, that they finished in April and they brought that in for $1.4 million.”

Johnstown officials have posted materials on the district’s Web site arguing in favor of why the public should support the project. The material is available at under the heading “Why Does the District Need a Bus Garage?”

Miller said the public has some misconceptions about the project, including that the district isn’t trying to build a garage. He said New York state is no longer giving aid for covered facilities for vehicles, so the project would only be to build a 5,000-square-foot maintenance facility near the high school student parking area on Wright Drive. He said the buses would be parked outside the facility without a roof.

“It’s not a garage. It’s just a facility to maintain the buses,” Miller said. “The state requires you to have these buses up in the air on a lift every 30 days. We have about 22 buses, so just about every day you’re putting a bus in the air.”

The district currently sends its buses to a facility in Amsterdam owned by Brown Coach for maintenance. It parks its buses inside an enclosed building on Crescendoe Road that it leases from the Crossroads Incubator Corp. The district has leased the building for six years. State law required the district to get a new lease after five years, which it did after voters approved a referendum for a lease extension of one year last year. The Crossroads Incubator Corp. cut the district a break and froze the lease cost at $97,715 for the 2009-10 school year, no increase from 2008-09.

District Superintendent Katherine Sullivan said if voters approve another one-year lease extension for next year, Crossroads will want a rent increase.

“We will be putting that on the ballot for sure,” she said. “We tried for [no rent increase] but I think it will be a little higher. It will show a slight increase. Approximately 90 percent of that is [reimbursed through state aid].”

Sullivan said building the bus garage near the student parking area on Wright Drive could trigger a State Environmental Quality Review process, which would likely delay the project beyond the March 18 deadline for the board to approve a referendum for May.

“We’re fairly confident there will not be a vote in May,” she said.

The other potential location for the facility was closer to the tennis courts near the district’s new auditorium, but school board officials have rejected the location for fear of too much traffic congestion.

Categories: Schenectady County

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