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Board delays site selection for bus depot

School district transportation officials will have to wait a while longer to find out where their new home will be.

The School Board postponed choosing a site for a new, centralized bus complex Tuesday night after some board members still had questions about a land purchase. The vote was delayed until Aug. 20.

Board members questioned the method by which the district is proposing to pay for land and whether an elementary school should be built on the same site as a bus depot.

Board member Stephen Galaydick said that district administrators had not provided enough information for the board to make a decision.

"You're asking us to select a site, and we really haven't had all the questions answered," Galaydick said.

Tim Bargeron, the district's finance director, said the purchase of one of five proposed sites can be made with $750,000 the board directed him to set aside two years ago for a new elementary school.

But Galaydick challenged that contention.

"Isn't it fortunate that there's $1.5-million sitting in a fund for an elementary school, and if you say . . . that you could use a portion of (the land) for it, doesn't that free up some of the (money) that you need to come up with to purchase the land (for the bus depot) and make the improvements?" Galaydick asked. "Pardon me for being so mercenary, but that's how I see this."

Board member Jim Malcolm disagreed, saying he did not think district officials were trying to "pull a fast one."

"My impression is they've always thought about an elementary school there," Malcolm said. "Nobody told them otherwise.

"I think it makes sense in terms of budgeting purposes that if we set aside $1.5-million for an elementary school, if you're going to dedicate 20 acres of your 60-acre purchase to an elementary school, that's the fund from which you would take the money to pay for it."

As for locating the district's 10th elementary school next to the bus depot, school officials have said it makes sense to buy additional land now for an elementary school to be built later.

"No way have I ever given direction to couple (the depot) with an elementary school," said Gail Coleman, the board's chairwoman.

Coleman lives near Westside Elementary School, where the current west-side bus complex is located.

"There is no way that would appeal to me," she said. "This is something that staff came up with as a plan."

Board members John Druzbick and Sandra Nicholson wanted to know why Coleman and Galaydick had not said anything before Tuesday night. Both noted that there had been numerous workshops on the bus depot since the board decided last year to put the complex at the top of its construction priority list. They also noted that board members had toured all of the sites and were aware of plans to purchase enough property for the depot and a school.

"I guess my confusion is when we start going to one area, and now, all of a sudden, saying now this is what we want to do," Druzbick said. "If the rest of the board is uncomfortable with an elementary school, then I guess we should let the staff know real quick, because it does not make sense to buy a 60-acre piece of property."

Facilities officials had selected five sites for the board to consider for the centralized complex, which would replace antiquated and overcrowded facilities in Brooksville and Spring Hill.

One of those sites covers 15 acres at the Holland Springs Industrial Park, which the district bought for $475,000 in 1993. Construction at that site was put on hold because of a lack of money. In 1995, administrators began looking for other locations when they decided to centralize the compound and build an elementary school next door.