COLUMBIA CITY — Whitley County Consolidated Schools may kill two birds with one stone — improving the community in two different ways.
The district may purchase the former Eagles building on south Main Street, which was formerly the Trier’s service building, to use as a bus garage.
The purchase could potentially save the district money from outsourcing its bus repairs, and would also fill an empty building in the heart of Columbia City.
“Owning our own bus garage has been on our radar for some time now,” said Business Manager Todd Fleetwood.
The idea took on a new urgency after the district received news that the current bus maintenance garage would need to be demolished due to the construction of the new Columbia City High School.
“We’ve been told the current bus barn we’ve been using at the high school site needs to come down to scatter dirt and relieve some of the mounds of dirt out there (at the construction site),” Fleetwood said.
Fleetwood conducted a cost analysis of the district owning its own garage, and it showed a positive impact for taxpayers. A majority of repairs are currently done by two vendors, which can be costly. Additionally, the district needs to find a place for current equipment in its bus barn.
Fleetwood and school administrators have considered several potential sites, and determined the building at the corner of Main and Hanna streets to be a good fit.
According to Indiana Code, the district has to seek two appraisals. Then, the appraisal prices will be averaged, and that is the maximum amount the district can offer for the building. Then, the offer is brought back to the Board of Trustees for final approval.
“I’m in favor of this (seeking appraisals), but I’m not yet convinced that the investment in a school-owned facility will be a substantial savings in the long run,” said board member Tim Bloom. “I just need to be convinced in the long run that this is a good fiscal decision. The purchase price will be a factor.”
Money for the purchase would come from the capital projects fund. Any equipment needed would be purchased through the transportation fund. Fleetwood made it clear that no bonds or tax increases would be necessary.