School Board Approves Design Plans For New Bus Garage

WATERTOWN — School transportation services company First Student Inc. has plans for a new bus garage in the Jefferson County Corporate Park.

Michael E. Lundy, president of the now Watertown-based Lundy Group of Companies, said First Student expressed interest in having him build a 5,000- to 6,000-square-foot facility, which would be located next to Penske Truck Leasing in the park on Route 12F, then leasing it from him. The Cincinnati-based company, which provides bus services for the Indian River Central School District and soon the Watertown City School District, also wanted the facility to have service and training areas.

Chris R. Kemper, a spokesman for First Student, which is a division of FirstGroup America, said the company couldn’t find an existing facility in the city to meet its needs, adding that its bid with the city school district doesn’t require it to have a garage in the city.

The proposed facility from Mr. Lundy “fits our needs and the standards and expectations of the school (district),” he said.

Discussions between Mr. Lundy and the brokerage that represented First Student, Sutton Real Estate Company, began last fall when the real estate firm told the developer it had a client who needed a bus garage.

Mr. Lundy, however, said the plan is “very premature,” and he still needs the final details and a formal agreement.

“We’re just kind of playing the waiting game,” Mr. Lundy said.

Mr. Lundy in 2015 had plans for a 10,000-square-foot speculative building at the same location for a client who wanted a trucking facility.

While the deal fell through after the client — who Mr. Lundy didn’t name — decided not to move to Watertown, the developer said the request, which also called for an indoor facility and staff area, was similar enough for him to retool the site plan for First Student’s garage.

“This building is pretty similar,” Mr. Lundy said.

The Watertown City School District Board of Education approved a contract with First Student for $15,863,480.22 earlier this month and, in the process, terminated a more than 50-year relationship with Freeman Bus Corp.

Freeman Bus offered a $22,616,065.30 bid for the contract to provide transportation for the district’s more than 4,000 students from the 2018-19 through 2022-23 school years, $6.7 million more than First Student’s offer. State law requires school districts to accept offers from the lowest bidder.

“We’re certainly looking forward to getting started,” Mr. Kemper said.

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