(This article is written by and shared via the Carroll County Schools District)
May 19, 2023 – Carroll County Schools is relocating its transportation department and bus yard to the 26-acre site of the VFW Fairgrounds as the start of a multi-phase operations center that ultimately will house transportation, maintenance and school nutrition departments.
The entire project could take several years to fully complete, but will begin immediately with relocation of the transportation department and bus yard from its longtime home on Horsley Mill Road.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for our system to provide much needed space for our transportation department while also preparing for future growth,” Superintendent Scott Cowart said. “We very much appreciate our Board’s foresight and their investment to improve our infrastructure.”
Cowart said the Carroll County Board of Education last year set aside $3.5 million of existing funds toward a transportation facility. The system hopes to invest an additional $1.5 million toward the project in the next budget year.
The former fairgrounds at 1625 Bankhead Highway consists of two separate parcels. The tract nearest Bankhead Highway is a 4.4 acre parcel including the old restaurant and events center not included in this purchase. The second parcel has been purchased by the school district and includes the actual fairgrounds, barns and exhibition buildings, which the school system plans to renovate into a transportation shop and office space.
The new 26-acre site is currently accessed through a driveway to Bankhead Highway, but Cowart said the school system is in negotiations with nearby property owners to gain direct access to the traffic light at Old Airport Road.
“It will be much safer for our buses and other vehicles to use the traffic light to access Bankhead Highway, and that access to a four-lane highway makes this an ideal centralized location to house our bus fleet,” Cowart said.
Assistant Superintendent of Administrative and Support Services Terry Jones said construction of the road to intersect with the traffic light will be completed first, and bus and truck traffic will use that new road to access the property.
The school system’s transportation department including mechanics shop and bus yard is now located on a 4-acre tract of what some people refer to as “the county farm.” The property is owned by Carroll County government but has been used by the school system for decades.
“The county has let us know that they would like to have this facility back for use by their public works department,” Jones said. “So this project to relocate our operations will assist them as well. We appreciate our longstanding partnership with the County and all that they do to support our school system”
Jones said the current transportation facility is an 11,000 square foot building which houses vehicle bays, shop facilities and office space for about a dozen staff people including route supervisors and dispatchers. The new site includes an existing 11,000 square foot building that will be converted into a new shop and repair facility. A separate existing 5,000 square foot building at the new site will be converted into office space for the transportation department. A third structure will be used for a bus wash station, something the current site doesn’t offer.
“We will be able to configure the new facility to be more efficient and better meet the needs of our staff,” Jones said. “Since our current facility is landlocked and owned by the county government, we are definitely limited on what we can do there.”
Jones said of a fleet of around 180 school buses, 150 are in use on a daily basis, and the task of keeping those buses staffed and running is a major operation.
Work on the connection to the traffic light at Old Airport Road should begin this summer, and Jones said he hopes the entire transportation portion of the project can be completed by the end of by early 2024.
Long-term, the property purchase will allow the school system space to relocate its maintenance and facilities department from the Burwell community to the new Bankhead Highway site, as well. There is also space for eventual relocation of the school nutrition department currently located in the basement of the board of education on Independence Drive.
“We are certainly excited about the opportunity to provide a modern transportation facility at a site with direct highway access for our buses,” Cowart said. “The opportunity to do more there over the long term is a definite positive, as well. When you think about the fact that our bus facility has been in the same location for multiple decades, I think this investment can also serve our system for many years to come.”