Concerns raised about lack of wood salvage efforts
By Marcy Stamper
In just two days, the powerful jaws of an excavator demolished the old school bus barn in Twisp, clearing more space in the parking area and giving access to a second entrance to the bus-maintenance garage.
Demolishing the bus barn — which hasn’t been used to shelter buses for years—was one of the improvements recommended by a Methow Valley School District facilities task force two years ago. Voters approved a $4.5-million levy in 2015 to pay for the upgrades, which also include emergency-response and ventilation systems and technology and playground improvements at other school facilities.
The bus garage was built in the 1940s or ’50s when buses were smaller, according to Bud Hover, the district’s director of operations and capital projects. Years ago the district knocked out the back wall to accommodate larger buses, but stopped using the barn altogether when it became impractical to maneuver the vehicles.
With the garage gone, the district plans to level out the parking lot, which will allow them to park school buses further off the road. It will also let the district use a large roll-up door in the maintenance bay that had been blocked by the bus barn. That will make it possible for mechanics to service two buses at once, said Hover.
Removing the bus garage is part of several improvements at the school district’s Twisp property. Other changes will enhance the learning environment for students and teachers at the Independent Learning Center (ILC) and improve working conditions for bus drivers and mechanics.
The ILC, which has been squeezed into two small rooms in the building next to the former bus barn, will move to the bunkhouse on the TwispWorks campus, where it will have three floors with room for classroom instruction as well as independent and small-group study.
Renovations to the bunkhouse are underway, but ILC students and teachers will start the school year in their old building. Hover said he expects the ILC to move before the end of September, once new furniture and computer equipment have been set up.
Space for drivers
Bus drivers — who have made do with a corner of the maintenance garage for daily meetings and a lounge — will get a more comfortable place to take a break after the ILC moves. Their lounge, along with offices for Hover and clerical staff, will be relocated to the old ILC building. The bus-maintenance garage will get ventilation and air-conditioning upgrades.
Demolishing the bus barn attracted considerable attention from passersby. “Some people were sad to see the wood crushed,” said Levi Wyatt, a worker with IRS Environmental, the Spokane-based contractor that handled the demolition. “It’s a little bit of history,” he said.
But some people expressed more than nostalgia for the old building. Several wondered why the wood hadn’t been salvaged or offered to local builders.
“It disturbed a lot of people that that lumber was just crushed,” said one builder who said people prize old wood for its structural and aesthetic qualities.
“People are upset not because of the money, but because of the waste — especially when we’re watching log trucks go by,” said another.
The facilities committee solicited input from the community about its findings and recommendations.
Despite the age of the bus barn, the school district wasn’t required to do a historical analysis, which is required only for certain types of funding, according to Allyson Brooks, the state’s historic preservation officer.
Taking down the bus barn proved more complicated than had been anticipated because the barn contained asbestos shingles and the district had to hire a qualified contractor to remove them safely, said Hover.
Some wood saved
Some people did get to keep lumber from the demolition, said Hover. Although the school district is required to award the contract to the lowest qualified bidder and couldn’t allow for the extra time to separate usable lumber, the contractors set aside doors and timbers for people who could remove the materials right away, he said.
“I would have loved to salvage as much as possible,” said Hover, but to deconstruct the barn by hand would have taken a long time, which wasn’t possible during the short summer work window, he said. “It would have been nice, but it wasn’t in the cards.”
The demolition of the bus barn cost $26,000, plus another $5,000 for asbestos abatement, he said.
The school district has also completed other facilities upgrades that were slated for the first year of the six-year schedule. At the main campus, the district has resurfaced the tennis courts and resealed and repainted the elementary school parking lot. Kitchen and custodial staff have new equipment.
The district plans to install new floors, carpeting and furniture at the elementary school before the 2017-18 school year, and to re-surface the high school track. They are working on the specifications for new bathroom fixtures and water fountains for both schools, said Hover.
Voters also approved the purchase of new school buses in 2015, and two buses were to be delivered this week. Three more will be purchased next year, and the final two in the following year, said Hover.
The district sold two old buses at surplus to a furniture maker who planned to use them to store wood, said Hover.
Bus driver Bill Bailey spent the summer recovering dozens of seats from the old buses. The new buses will have cameras, which Hover hoped would increase safety for students and drivers.
The school bus purchases are covered by a separate $800,000 levy, plus contributions from the district’s general fund.