New Ypsi school bus facility 12


There was a Ypsilanti School Board Meeting last night that Jules attended, the big subject being a proposed new school bus maintenance facility. The current facility is just north of Depot Town and apparently in need of of a lot of upgrades. The proposal being put forward is to setup a new bus maintenance and storage facility off Congress St where the RCTC facility is now. This property is just south of West Middle School and the school district already owns the property. There are some logical economic reasons why this would be a good location. There are also a lot of issues with putting the bus garage here, not least of which that Congress is a 2 lane road here with gravel shoulders. A lot of kids walk to West along this road and it would get quite dangerous with the extra bus traffic there. There are also issues with extra diesel fumes and noise from all the extra bus traffic in the area. The diesel exhaust is a particularly an issue for a facility that would sit right in the middle of a residential area, particularly one where a lot of kids suffer from asthma. Eric Touchberry who is a strong supporter of the School district and Board, (for the record I am also a strong supporter of the Ypsilanti schools) sent an e-mail the other day to a number of people trying to justify the move and it was forwarded to me. One point in particular struck me as very flawed:

First, we’re a poor school district. Poor school districts can’t afford to throw good money after bad on the current us maintenance facility. Why don’t we fix it right and clean it up? Because school districts aren’t eligible for federal brownfield leanup funds. We can’t afford to fix it up right, but we *can* sell the property to the city, which *is* eligible for cleanup funding. After the certified cleanup, the city can sell the property for some extra cash. That’s a winning scenario for the city and the school district. But even if the city doesn’t buy the property, it would be fiscally irresponsible of the district to retain the current bus facility.

First of all, the city of Ypsilanti is facing financial problems probably even more serious than the school district. The chances of the city coming up with the money to buy the current bus garage property seems very slim at best. Also very close to the current bus garage is the site of the old Motor Wheel plant. This plant has been shut down for several years and no seems to to be very interested in cleaning up and developing that. If an existing facility in the same area is available with no interest, what makes Eric think that there would be any more interest in the bus garage? I agree that we need to take a look at any an all possible ways for the school district to cut costs. This is especially true given that as long as the republicans control the Michigan legisilature, we are unlikely to see any policy changes that will result in public schools getting even enough funds to keep up with inflation much less grow. They seem to be obsessed more with charter schools than funding public schools. With companies like Delphi and Visteon shrinking fast, the situation is only going to get worse. But this does not appear to be the right answer at this time.


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12 thoughts on “New Ypsi school bus facility

  • Eric 2.0

    Hi Sam–

    You have a beautiful site. I have site envy. 🙂

    It’s not often that I find my words on another blog. I hope you don’t mind if I respond.

    First, a caveat. My email was written the weekend before the board meeting, before anyone in the public had first-hand knowledge of Plante Moran’s feasibility study for the bus garage. I had it on good authority that few if any trees would be cut down, so I wrote mainly in response to a flyer circulated around Normal Park that ginned up fear of clear-cutting, “destroying,” the woods. They even had hard-hatted loggers with chainsaws in a clipart on the flyer. I just wanted to provide some middle ground for tree lovers and district supporters.

    Second, you’re absolutely right that I have no absolute knowledge of the city purchasing the Railroad Ave. site. It’s extraneous to my point, however, and I probably shouldn’t have written it. I only know what I’ve read — the city and the school district have talked about the sale of district property. The city’s concern is that the property goes on the tax roll rather than to EMU, as in the Fletcher School property. Admittedly, I wrote of an everybody’s-happy-let’s-all-go-to-Disneyland scenario with the old bus garage. But it *is* an example of potential cooperation that has been used in city/school district discussions.

    Motor Wheel is a good example of vacant industrial land in need of clean up. But as far as I know, the property is still on the tax roll. So there would be more incentive for the city to clean up and resell the Railroad Ave. property as a newly taxable property. In any event, the old garage is still extraneous to my point.

    After learning that Plante Moran’s feasibility study did not include an environmental impact study, my support for the Congress St. site is still strong but more tenative. And the board wisely decided to examine other possible sites–hopefully, with an eye to environmental impact.

    What I favor is a clear-eyed, bare-knuckled cost benefit analysis of several sites. We know what the district needs for a bus garage. Factor in some extra costs:
    –the fuel savings of locating the bus garage near the high school — the transportation hub
    –the fuel costs of locating the garage away from the high school
    –the environmental engineering costs for each location
    –the administrative costs of redesigning the transportation plan to save fuel at another location

    In the end, as I told the board on Monday night, they have to do what’s best for the solvency of the district and therefore for the benefit of the kids. NIMBY arguments (and they will hear them regardless of the location they select) should not count in their evaluation. Furthermore, they should listen to groups within the school district–students, faculty or staff–who will feel the impact of any location choice. And the board should regard less the opinions from people who send their children out-of-district for schooling. Each child sent out of district costs Ypsi Schools $7,100 (in addition to the lost parent involvement.) Maybe we wouldn’t be in our current fiscal situation if every family *really* supported Ypsi Schools — with their children. That last part is very personal to me. I say, if you don’t send your kids to Ypsi Schools, you ain’t got a dawg in this fight.

    In the end, I think the superintendent jumped the gun. I think the board proved itself to be the check on executive power that we voters wanted. I also think there was zero malice on the part of the administration and the board. I cannot say the same for my neighbors who hissed and booed and called the presenter from Plante Moran, the administration and even Andy Fanta “liars” at the Monday board meeting.

    Just my two cents. Thanks for reading.

    Eric

    http://www-personal.umich.edu/~touch

  • Sam Post author

    Eric

    First welcome and thanks for the comment on the site design. It’s actually the based on the default wordpress theme with a few tweaks. Second, I probably should’ve checked with you before quoting from your message, but since it was fairly widely circulated and you were responding to a community discussion I hope you didn’t mind. I understand the context of what you said, and from a purely economic point of view you make some very good arguments. I don’t know exactly what the situation is far as the Motor Wheel and whether they are paying any taxes to the city or not. I raised that particular point because at least to me that seemed like a flawed argument in your case. I don’t know for sure what has been discussed between the city and the district.

    But the reason I write this blog is to get some things off my chest and maybe get some discussion going. I haven’t been doing this for very long. Note that I didn’t say I was a bomb thrower. When I said discussion, I mean’t real discussion and in that light I appreciate your comments here and hope that you will continue to visit and participate. I respect your active involvment in the community. My wife Julie was at the board meeting the other night and I heard about what transpired and was quite disgusted. The hissing and nastiness was uncalled for and frankly rather infantile. I agree that people who have school age kids that aren’t attending the ypsi schools have little business particpating in this. If they have issues with the schools they should be working to fix this from the inside. Both of our kids attend ypsi schools and for the most part have had a very good educational experience. There have been issues but frankly those kinds of issues exist pretty much everywhere and are not relevant to this discussion.

    There are concerns with this proposal that go beyond the economics. These include the environmental and local quality of life issues. These concerns need to be accounted for regardless of what is ultimately decided. Dramatically increasing the bus traffic on Congress has safety, noise and diesel pollution ramifications for local residents. I drove my daughter to west m.s. in the morning for the last couple of years and there are quite a few kids who walk along congress to get to school, and I am sure there are others that walk to Chappelle later in the morning. If a bus facility were to be built there, something should probably be done about providing sidewalks and maybe some traffic lights along there. There is also the issue of Paint Creek running under the RCTC property. The RCTC site may well turn out to be the best available option, but I think we need to very carefully examine this issue and not rush into anything.

    Finally, I think the whole situation was mishandled by the district from a public participation standpoint. The first I heard about this was in the AA News the week before the board meeting. The public should have been better informed by the district about the problems with the current facility and the need for a new facility. I think better public information might have diffused much of this before it blew up. Having said that it appears that there was a great over reaction from some poeple. I think people have some very valid concerns about the proposal that go beyond just nimby.

  • Eric 2.0

    Sam, no matter where they put the bus facility someone is going to complain. What I fear is environmental racism. The Congress St. site is in the midst of two affluent and mostly white neighborhoods with more political clout than the southside.

    If the bus facility is so awful, and I don’t believe it is, then the people with the least voice are going to have this “awful” facility thrust upon them. In fact, the southside was suggested at the board meeting; someone also suggested the Exemplar facility.

    There will be environmental concerns regardless of location. We’re not adding any more pollution by moving the facility. We’re moving the pollution, too. I believe there are engineering solutions for liquid and solid contaminants. I don’t know the cost.

    Yes there will be increased traffic on Congress. It’s waaaaaay past time for Ypsi Township to put shoulders and a sidewalk on Congress.

    Yes, some neighbors will be directly affected. That’s true for any location. The district should hear these people and, as much as possible, minimize the effects.

    I agree that some people are serious about the environmental damage and are not just NIMBYs. Sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart. 🙂

    Still, the district needs a new facility. And someone is going to be unhappy about its location. I can abide that so long as the location is based on maintaining the solvency of the district and educating our kids. I put that above environmental purism … and above everything else.

  • Ingrid

    I disgree with the sentiment that the school board should not listen as much to residents who don’t send their children to Ypsi schools. What about people whose children have grown up? What about people whose children will go the school but are still too young? Don’t they have a stake? What about grandmothers who are caring for their grandchildren? Do their voices count? We’re all taxpayers. We all vote for school board members.

    What about me? I’ve seen once child through the public schools; one currently attends the public schools; and another attends private school. Do I get a say? Does it matter that I went to public schools, and my mom taught in an inner city public school for many years? Does it matter that I’ve sat through more PTA meetings and school board meetings than most people have in a lifetime?

    What about parents of children with disabilities? Their child may cost the district more to test and educate than the district would forego should the child go to private school. Should those parents’ voices count less because their child absorbs more financial resources than others? I don’t think so.

    If the school district wants to win back any of the 580 students who have left in the past two years, the district better listen to their parents. These are white and African American parents who seek the best possible education for their children. We would all do well to listen to their concerns whether it be about the bus garage or any other matter. The future vitality of the schools depends on this.

  • Kristi

    I would also take issue with Eric’s statement that those who don’t have children in the Ypsi public schools ‘don’t have a dog in this fight.’ I don’t have children at all, but as a Normal Park homeowner and taxpayer I’d like to think I’m still entitled to a voice when it comes to issues that might have a negative environmental or traffic impact on my neighborhood. In fact, even if I had children who I chosen not to send to Ypsi public schools–and I know good, thoughtful people who’ve gone both ways on that decision–I think my views as a resident of this neighborhood would still count for something. I’m extremely surprised and disappointed that anyone would suggest otherwise.

  • Sam Post author

    I agree that that people who don’t have kids in the schools are just as entitled to a voice in this discussion. This is more than just an economic issue for the school district. This is also a qualtiy of life issue for local residents. Also many of the redidents most directly impacted by this don’t fall into what I would call into the affluent category. The people who live in the apartments in Tuscan Creek (formerly Cobble Creek) and other appartments and houses along Congress closest to this location should not be disregarded. I am not sure exactly where Eric lives, but my kids have been friends with people who live very close to the area, and I know they are not affluent. Given the financial situation of the district now and going forward, that obviously needs to be a high priority in this discussion. But it MUST NOT be the only factor. We must consider the environmental and life impacts of this too. We can’t just discount the RCTC site out of hand, but we must look carefully at this decision.