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Discussion of New Bus Depot

11/19/15 Board of Education Meeting

By: Katherine Massopust

Board Vice President Israel Varela

Board Vice President
Israel Varela

PERTH AMBOY – On the Old Business portion of the agenda of the 11/19/15 Board of Education Meeting there was a discussion on a proposed Bus Depot to be built on the corner of East Avenue and New Brunswick Avenue. Presently this is an empty lot and the land is owned by the Board of Education. The proposed Bus Depot would house school vehicles including maintenance vehicles, food service trucks and school buses, etc. The plan is to have an in-house mechanic to service the vehicles plus in-house cleaning services and a storage facility to garage the vehicles thereby extending the life of the vehicle.

The Amboy Guardian reached out to Board Vice-President and Buildings and Grounds Chair Israel Varela. Varela stressed the need of the Bus Depot to help alleviate the problems of outsourcing school vehicles. “It will make things perfect. In the past we had to outsource maintenance vehicles and were at the company’s mercy, especially during snowstorms. We had to pay an outsourced company around $100,000 to plow for a storm. Now we own our own Bobcats and we are paying less than half the money that we were paying before. These Bobcats can be are also being retrofitted to do other things such as landscaping which we are using them for.”

The plan is to eventually purchase enough vehicles so that the Board of Education does not need to outsource any vehicles. “We pay around $80,000 a year to store school vehicles. If we have our own facility, we will have more room. We will be able to maintain vehicles and clean them. What we now pay a contractor to maintain vehicles each year is enormous. The Depot will be a great, great savings.”

During the 11/19/15 Board of Education Meeting, Board Member William Ortiz questioned the Board on the need for the construction of the Bus Depot, “Is there a timetable that this is going to cost?”

Board Secretary Derek Jess answered, “The architect is preparing the renderings. We will get an estimate for the cost and then we will go forward.”

Board President Sam Lebreault provided some information, “About 3 years ago it cost $7.2 million (the amount the BOE spends on transportation). Today, I don’t know.”

Derek Jess added, “It’s in the ballpark.”

William Ortiz continued, “How many square feet (will this Bus Depot be)? How much will it cost – from $2.5 million to $5 million?”

Jess answered, “We currently own around 30 school buses (plus maintenance vehicles and food service delivery trucks). We outsource around 40 other (vehicles).”

“Buy more buses?” Ortiz asked

Jess replied, “Because then we don’t have to outsource it (vehicle services).”

Ortiz continued, “I would like to have a presentation. Once you build, you have to maintain the building and pay health benefits (to employees). What is the starting salary for a bus driver?”

Jess answered, “Around $28,000/year. Once we have the information from the architect we will know the cost.”

Ortiz continued his questioning, “How would this benefit the students if we overspend on it?”

Buildings and Ground Chair and Board Vice President Israel Varela stated the necessity of the building, “A lot of private companies are opening up. There’s a large profit in this. In reference to cost, the amount of buses (outsourced) – it’s a massive amount of a bill. By having our own, it’s very lucrative. We can maintain our own vehicles and keep them more secure. We’ll have a nice garage and always be ready for any emergencies.”

Ortiz argued, “How are we going to store 70 buses – in this building? It’s always cheaper to lease than to own. I know enough to know that this is a Red Herring. At some point, this should be presented to the public. There’s no way it’s beneficial to the students.”

The Amboy Guardian asked Vice President Varela on the need for so much busing in Perth Amboy. Varela answered, “Federal law requires special needs students to be bussed. If a program is far away and a special needs student is required to attend it, the student must be bused. More and more special needs students are coming into Perth Amboy.”

When asked about buses being parked all over town, especially recently buses being parked in the Train Station parking lot, Varela answered, “All Perth Amboy Board of Education buses are housed in storage during the day when not in use. They are not parked on the street or in the train station lot. In Perth Amboy, the outsourced vehicles are not required to be stored during the day. If it does not say Perth Amboy Board of Education on the bus or vehicle – it is outsourced and not owned by the Perth Amboy Board of Education.”

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