LESAGE, W.Va. (AP) — Cabell County Schools has opened the doors to a multi-million dollar transportation complex to keep the wheels on the district's more than 100 buses going 'round and 'round throughout the school year.
About a month after transportation employees moved into the Cabell County Schools Transportation Complex along Cox Landing Road, the facility is filled with activity among mechanics servicing and repairing the buses that travel a total of 7,100 miles per day during the school year.
The new complex not only is aesthetically pleasing for the employees who work there, but they also finally are able to work in a facility that is as up to date as the buses they are caring for, said Joe Meadows, director of transportation for the school system.
"It's very exciting," Meadows said. "I keep saying exciting, because it is exciting. This is the beginning of a new transportation department."
The complex cost a total of $7.6 million, which was used to remodel the former Cox Landing Junior High School building and shape the remaining 11 acres with a new wing to the complex and enough parking space to accommodate 60 of the school system's 107 buses, Meadows said.
The project was completed using only local school funds, $3 million of which came from savings, said Mike O'Dell, assistant superintendent of operations. Treasurer Jody Lucas found the remainder of the money from other areas of the budget, O'Dell said.
The location provides bus drivers with better access to the eastern and central sections of the county via W.Va. 2 and the Big Ben Bowen Highway that connects W.Va. 2 to I-64 and U.S. 60 in Barboursville.
The new complex also replaced a deteriorating garage behind Barboursville Middle School. It had poor lighting and poor air conditioning.
It was attached to the transportation administrative offices that were located in an old double-wide trailer that flooded each time it rained.
"Compared to the old facility, this is better by tenfold," said Nick Jordan, a mechanic for the school system. "The old facility was run down. It was dark. This gives us a better place to thoroughly work the buses and make sure they're safe on the road."
Prior to constructing the complex, the school system sold one acre of the original 12-acre lot to the Cabell County Public Library to construct a new Cox Landing Library. That library was approaching completion earlier this month, O'Dell said.
The complex is a mix of the repurposed junior high school and new construction that includes a garage and bus washing facilities for drivers, who are encouraged to wash their buses once each week, O'Dell said.
The bulk of the renovation that took place in the junior high was done by Cabell County Schools maintenance employees, and the new construction was bid out to contractors.
The old tile in the junior high has been taken up and replaced with polished concrete flooring. A former classroom was renovated to be used as restrooms, and the gymnasium was given a makeover to be used as a multipurpose room that can be separated with a divider as needed. The former principal's office now is the administrative wing for the system's transportation department.
A point of focus in the remodeled school is a staff development room that seats more than 100 people. It was refurnished with carpeting, portable tables and chairs, and a projector.
"Really, we didn't have a place like this before," O'Dell said. "It gives us a place where we can gather teachers and staff and host meetings or training. It has all the equipment we need, and it's going to make a big, big difference for us." Meadows will be in charge of managing the development room. He said he is glad to have the chance to open the complex up to more people.
"I'm excited that people are going to be able to come in and see there's more to the transportation department than just buses pulling up to their building," Meadows said. "When they come in, they're going to be able to see there are a lot of things going on. Often times, what we've seen in the past is that we're kind of out of sight, out of mind, but this new facility has put us into the forefront." The remaining sections of the former school are being used for storage, O'Dell said.
Once they go past the staff development room, visitors will enter the newly constructed wing of the complex.
At the end of the new facility is a $576,000 automatic bus wash. There are two wash bays, one that is completely automatic and another that is similar to a quarter-fed car wash.
They'll also find a vast bus garage fit with seven double bays that can accommodate up to 14 buses as well as storage for tires, hoses, nuts, bolts and any other tool or piece of equipment mechanics may need.
The air-conditioned garage is equipped with 14 doors that are 14 feet wide and spaced six feet apart, which makes for a more spacious and productive work space, said Charles Justice, chief mechanic for the school system.
The previous garage in Barboursville had five double bays, but only five doors, meaning once two buses were in, only one bus could get out. The doors were so close together that the mechanics had difficulty moving around the buses to repair them.
He also said the old garage easily would exceed 100 degrees during the summer months.
"It's a good, clean place to work," Justice said. "Before, there was not enough room to get around. In this garage, we just have a lot better place to work on the buses."
Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, http://www.herald-dispatch.com