APS bus garage main topic for state subsidized cleanup

ALPENA — Considerations regarding the Alpena Public Schools bus garage, ranging from a state subsidized cleanup project to discussions regarding the property itself, occurred during the Alpena Public Schools Board of Education Property Committee meeting Thursday.

The bus garage currently location is contaminated from both previous ownership as well as a fuel spill that occurred several years ago while under APS ownership, according to Assistant Superintendent of Operations Diane Block.

With the soil contaminated, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality opened a file regarding the site’s safety and after much money had been spent to remedy the problem, the file remained open. Block said about a year and a half ago the DEQ was given funds to help clean contaminated sites around the state.

Block said with the available funds, the DEQ had a site visit at the bus garage and will begin bidding out the project scheduled to begin this summer. Once the remediation is complete the file for the property can be formally closed.

While the process of bidding the project out and performing the work will be under the direction of the DEQ, the district stressed the project be performed in the summer months so busing operations were not disrupted, Block said. The DEQ has given a window of June 18 to Aug. 25 to begin the project.

In the meantime, Superintendent John VanWagoner said the district has received interest from potential economic developers regarding thebus garage property.

“We are getting some interest from different developers on that property,” he said. “It’s on a pretty strategic location as far as where it is at.”

VanWagoner said he has been having conversations with the economic development team at the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce and other entities but he said the conversations are contingent on having another parcel of property and provided funds for a new bus garage.

VanWagoner said the conversations focus on the value of the current bus garage in regards to financing a new one. Board member Richard Matteson highlighted the district prior rejection of a $300,000 offer for the property 15 years ago.

“We’ll see where it goes to possibly put us in a situation for a piece of property that we already have in the district to possibly build us a nicer facility on it for what that property may bring,” Vanwagoner said.

Also tied into the discussion was considerations from the Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District to establish its own busing fleet for Pied Piper School.

Currently the AMA ESD contracts its busing services with Thunder Bay Transportation Authority on an annual basis. VanWagoner said the preliminary talks could involve collaboration between the two entities.

“We have an opportunity here to possibly collaborate with some things such as mechanics and possibly housing and other things,” he said.

The mechanics issue was another consideration for the bus garage as subcontracted mechanical services are set to expire at the end of August. Block recommended at a minimum rebidding the services but also to consider bringing the services in house if it is to the benefit of the district.

VanWagoner said he will continue the discussions with the AMA ESD next week. As an informational item, no action was taken by the committee.

Tyler Winowiecki can be reached via email at twinowiecki@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Tyler on Twitter tw_alpenanews.