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2 sites being eyed for new Plum school bus garage

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Two spots are being explored as potential sites for a new Plum School District bus garage.

Plum officials have pinpointed two areas — one close to the salt storage building and another just beyond Old Mine Road, the entrance road to the borough property site off Renton Road.

The borough owns 110 acres at the site at which a new public works operation opened in October. Plans also call for a combination building to house a new ambulance base for Plum Emergency Medical Services and a new station for the Renton Volunteer Fire Co.

“The two best locations are off Renton Road,” Manager Michael Thomas told Plum Council and school board members who make up the intergovernmental committee. “They are the two buildable areas.”

Plum School Board President Sal Colella last month proposed exploring the possibility of building a new garage at the site because the district's current bus garage on two acres off Leechburg Road is more than 40 years old and in disrepair. It needs work including driveway and parking lot paving, new lights and cameras, roof restoration and upgrades to the restroom, doors and vestibules. The area also is cramped, board member Tom McGough said.

“The whole facility is falling apart,” Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said.

District officials have earmarked about $350,000 in the 2014-15 school year budget for equipment upgrades and improvements.

“We have to make a decision to invest there or look for another facility,” Colella said during last month's transportation committee meeting.

Thomas said the first decision the district needs to make is how much property it would need for a new garage.

Colella said he envisions a 65,000-square-foot building to house the district's bus fleet that has 59 vehicles, according to the district website. Colella estimates the building would cost about $1 million. He also would like to see offices, a heated station for bus washing and lifts for mechanics.

Glasspool said if a new bus garage is built at the site, he also envisions moving the district's facilities department to Renton Road.

Donna Meanor, district bus driver and president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1595 that represents the district's drivers, mechanics and aides, favors a new facility.

“We definitely need one (a new building) to improve everything and have a bigger facility for us and the buses,” Meanor said. “We need more open space and parking. We are at capacity.”

Meanor also said the inside lobby is small and the restrooms need to be renovated. Meanor suggested the district should have used some of the money it plans to spend on repairs and potentially a new building for wages for the drivers, mechanics and aides.

The employees took a $4.23-cent an hour wage cut during the current year of the contract that extends through July 31, 2015.

Board member Joe Tommarello, transportation committee chairman, said money for repairs comes from a different account than money for salaries.

“The money for capital improvements comes from a different account and not our general fund that we use for salaries and emergencies,” Tommarello said.

Further discussion is expected during the transportation committee meeting on Jan. 14 in the board room at the high school, 900 Elicker Road.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753.

or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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