Bus drivers, start your engines... and fill your gas tanks, all at the same place.
Orange County Public Schools unveiled its newest bus depot/fueling station yesterday at a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Northwest Bus Compound facility next to Apopka Middle School on Votaw Road in Apopka.
The depot includes four bus fueling pumps under a canopy, new paving, a maintenance building and new landscaping.
With the compound completed, the district expects to save over $400,000 a year by not having school buses driving the long distances to fuel up in Pine Hills, which means buses will drive 107,000 miles less and save more than 15,000 gallons of fuel each year. The project's budget was $1.4 million.
Bill Wen, OCPS Senior Director of Transportation, explained the primary reasons for the project.
"Our goal in transportation is to lower cost without lowering service. By not going to the Pine Hills Depot, we will save 15,000 gallons of fuel annually. We don't want to drive buses without passengers on board."
Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer spoke at the event and expressed his willingness to stand side-by-side with initiatives and projects that involve education.
"This was one of those good ideas you couldn't say no to. Our bus drivers are an important part of the school system. There is wear and tear on the buses driving the extra distance, and there is wear and tear on our drivers too. I am proud to be a partner with OCPS. If there is something I can do to advance education in Apopka, I will do it."
Apopka City Commissioner Diane Velazquez agreed with Wen that improvements to the compound will save money.
"It's about cost savings and the availability of the buses not having to drive all the way to Pine Hills. I have heard many times about how much money was being wasted by taking those long trips to get fuel. This is a project that the district sorely needed."
Christine Moore is the school board representative for District 7, which includes Apopka. And according to her, she fought for this project for the eight years she has been in office.
"The original idea for this depot was from the bus drivers," she said. "They told me about it eight years ago when I was first campaigning for the school board. Ideas are a powerful thing. Ideas and a 'never give up' attitude. Eight years and two elections later we got it done. You never give up on issues that are important."
Elaine Savage, an OCPS bus driver for 22 years, spoke on behalf of the bus drivers that will utilize the depot.
"This compound is truly a blessing for us. We are thankful we have a secure place. We are thankful we have a home."