Members of the public got a chance to learn about the Grand Island School District’s proposed $6.37 million transportation center at an afternoon informational session this week.

A handful of residents attended the Thursday meeting at Sidway Elementary School on Baseline Road, behind which the new center would be built, if voters approve the project in a Dec. 18 referendum.

Under the proposal, a 16,000-square-foot building would be erected for the buses and offices, and the present 65-year-old transportation center would be renovated, inside and out. It then would house the departments of maintenance and buildings and grounds, which would be relocated from Staley Road. And it would provide much-needed indoor storage for school district equipment and supplies.

That building, according to Joseph Giarrizzo, district finance director, is too small to accommodate the length and width of today’s buses. That means doors to the maintenance bays remain open in cold and inclement weather, creating difficulties for mechanics.

The Board of Education selected the site as the best ecologically and economically over four others, acting on advice of its consultants, Cannon Design and Wendel Duchscherer.

Part of the project includes building a new ring road just for buses to the north of the school and its athletic fields. The road would loop around the rear of the property to reach the new center and bus parking areas. The state Education Department wants schools to separate bus traffic from passenger cars driven by staff, parents and visitors.

The ring road might include about a third of an acre of adjacent wetlands behind the school. The district is in the process of hiring a consultant that would do further environmental impact studies of that area and assist in getting approvals from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other regulatory agencies as needed.

William K. Zografos, vice president of Cannon Design, architects on the project, said that the project design won’t be finalized “until we go through the environmental impact.”

Giarrizzo said the project has no impact on the tax levy. The state will reimburse the district 80.6 percent of the costs. And, if the voters approve, the district will utilize $1.13 million from an existing capital reserve fund for its share.

A video about the project is posted on the district’s website at Another information meeting on the project will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday,.