Houston County’s school buses and transportation employees have a new home base. The district celebrated its new bus facility with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday morning.
The $6 million building was the last big project to be funded by the 2012 Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, Superintendent Mark Scott said. Employees moved into the facility in June after a year of construction, transportation director Tom Walmer said.
The department previously had facilities in Warner Robins and Perry, which were old and not well-suited for maintenance. More than 70 drivers parked their buses at schools and other locations. The new building on Bear Country Boulevard in Warner Robins puts everyone in one central location, and all but about six drivers park their buses in the large parking lot.
“One of the biggest benefits is to be able to bring all our people together under one roof, being able to work together and be around your peers, and be one instead of two different entities and represent all of Houston County,” Walmer said.
The district has 284 buses, including spares. Out of the 251 active buses, 189 are used daily for bus routes and the rest for field trips, fleet manager Stephen Ulmer said.
The 27,889-square-foot building is situated on 13.6 acres of land, Director of Facilities Scott Hill said. It features offices, employee break rooms and a training room. The district’s eight mechanics have 13 bays to perform bus inspections and repairs, Ulmer said.
Daniel Singletary, a Houston bus mechanic for 13 years, said they do everything there except big jobs like engine work. He likes that they have five more bays to work with and ample room for parking.
“A new, cleaner, better-tooled facility means a safer facility for (employees) to be able to work on the buses,” Walmer said. “It’s much more employee-friendly as far as ventilation and staying cool and heating in the winter.”
Employees used to wash the buses using hoses and ladders, but now they have a covered “bus wash” with two catwalks and an automated rinse system, Walmer said. There’s also a propane fueling system.