Grand Island residents are invited to walk a potential wetlands area Thursday that might be included in the school district’s new transportation center.
Joseph A. Giarrizzo, district finance director, said Tuesday at a public information session on the $6.37 million project that representatives of EDR Cos., which is assisting the district with pre-referendum work, and Cannon Design, project architects, will also be on hand for the 2 p.m. gathering.
Several residents attended the meeting Tuesday at Sidway Elementary School on Baseline Road, behind which the new center would be built if voters approve a referendum next week.
Under the proposal, a new 16,000-square-foot building would be erected for the buses and offices. The current 65-year-old transportation center would be renovated for use by maintenance, and buildings and grounds, which would relocate from Staley Road.
The Board of Education selected the site as the best ecologically and economically over four others, acting on advice of its consultants, Cannon and Wendel.
The project also includes a new ring road just for buses to the north of the school and its athletic fields that would loop around the rear of the property to reach the new center and bus parking areas. The state Education Department wants bus and passenger car traffic separated for safety reasons.
At a similar session Thursday, some residents questioned the use of less than half an acre of potential 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 Army Corps of Engineers and other regulatory agencies as needed.
One resident asked Tuesday whether the district had thought of contracting out bus services instead of building a new transportation center.
Giarrizzo said that one of the drawbacks is that the service provider’s fees can equal what it costs the district to provide busing. He said the district would also have a lot less control over the transportation system.
Jack Burns, district transportation director, noted that 80 to 90 percent of the bus drivers are Grand Island residents, whose familiarity with the roads and students is a plus.
Interim School Superintendent Robert W. Christmann said that many of the district’s bus drivers “have done something special” for students, including waiting with a child who doesn’t have a key to get into his or her residence or going back to pick up a child who missed the pickup.
William K. Zografos, Cannon vice president and project manager, said he has noted how district students are taught about safety and respect.
Referring to June’s bullying of a Greece Central School District’s bus monitor – which drew worldwide attention – he said: “I don’t think you would ever see that happen here.”
Voting will be held from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the high school gymnasium.