LAKEMORE Officials from Springfield Local Schools, Springfield Township and the village of Lakemore gathered to break ground on the future transportation depot Nov. 15.

It has been a joint effort to find and acquire a location for the much-needed bus facility. The address for the facility is 2660 Kenny Ray Jr. Memorial Parkway. Bus Driver and President of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) #530 Melinda Hamilton said it was a fitting address for the depot as Kenny Ray Jr., as a young man, was a bus driver for the district.

“I think it is awesome that we can continue to memorialize Kenny Ray, Jr.,” she said. “We are thrilled that we are going to have a facility that we need, that is going to make a safe environment for us and someplace we can call home.”

Hamilton spoke on behalf of all who work in the district’s transportation department.

The facility will be 7,987 square feet and will consist of three maintenance bays, one drive through wash bay, transportation office, storage and driver meeting space. The separate parking areas will accommodate 43 staff parking spaces, 36 bus parking spots and an on-site fueling area.

The facility and grounds will provide a safe and efficient environment for the staff. Lonnie Meeker, manager for the transportation department, said the building is going to mean the world to them.

“It is very special for the drivers,” he said. “We were always moving around and now being centrally located is a great thing.”

Business Manager Dustin Boswell said since 2012 the Transportation Department has been located at a rented facility off the district’s property. That was done to provide room for the construction of Springfield Junior/Senior High School. The transportation staff has made the best of the space throughout the last seven years, but it has sometimes been difficult in a variety of ways. A better long-term solution was needed.

“It has been a long-awaited project and we are glad to see it underway,” Boswell said.

Superintendent Chuck Sincere thanked many people involved in the process including Board of Education members, Lakemore Mayor Rick Justice, council members, Springfield trustees, Lakemore and Springfield fire and police departments, First Student, the bus drivers, Boswell and the staff at the administration building for all of their hard work.

The search for property to construct a building began in the fall of 2016, and in March 2019 the Board of Education approved the agreement with Lakemore Plaza owners to purchase the 16 acres behind it for $250,000. It was determined it was a central location with access to major roads.

The cost of the facility will be $2,304 and it will cost a little more each month than the current rental of the inadequate building the district are operating from. According to Treasurer Chris Adams, the district will own the building in 10 years and First Student, which provides transportation for the district, will be paying rent to Springfield Local Schools. Financially, it will be a better situation and safer for employees, Adams said.

The rental funds and the cost savings from operational efficiencies will be directed to the construction cost of the facility. Through time, money will be saved by the centralized locations such as less time spent fueling, savings on fuel cost versus fueling at service stations and a reduction in maintenance expenditures. Once the building is paid for, the district benefits will come from a decrease in overall expenditures. The district plans a future partnership with the village and township through the on-site fueling facility with the hope the lower fuel costs can be extended to those community partners.

“Finally, we have a home,” said Board of Education Vice President David Hofer.

He explained issues the bus drivers have had to put up with over the years and the rented facility including port-a-potties and much more.

“It is a community that got this together and I thank you all,” he said.

Justice said the village has been looking at this piece of property behind the plaza for nine years as to what could its use be. He said officials had talked about ideas they had for the property and eventually came up with the idea to put the bus garage here. He welcomed the bus drivers back to Lakemore.

“We appreciate all that you do,” Justice said. “You take on a lot of responsibility transporting our kids back and forth to school.”

He thanked the plaza owners, Akron Associates, for all it did to make it happen.

“It was a lot of work,” Justice said. “If we wouldn’t have had the road and the agreement for maintenance, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Council President Rich Cole thanked the Lakemore Planning Commission.

“Many hours went into the planning for the road and getting the bus garage back into Lakemore,” he said.

Cole also thanked Summit County for their help to get the road back into the plaza.

The building should be finished in June 2020 and operational by the 2020-21 school year.