Walk around Mohonasen’s new transportation facility and chances are you’ll see a lot of smiling faces.
“It’s a more upbeat feeling coming into this building instead of a dark, dreary old bus garage,” said Randy Jerreld, Mohonasen Transportation Supervisor for the past nine years. “Overall, being here has increased driver morale quite a bit. I think people like coming to work here. I know I do.”
Construction of the 19,333 square foot facility was part of the $46.8 million capital project approved by voters in November 2013. With most of the finishing touches in place, Jerreld and his staff of more than 60 part- and full-time staff took up occupancy in early November 2016.
Jerreld said conversations about a new transportation building had been going on for as long as he can remember, and the 2013 capital project shifted plans into high gear.
“When we first started planning the building, we wanted more space,” he said. The lack of space in the former building caused friction on a number of fronts – including tight parking for buses (which was a safety issue), a lack of parking spots for staff, a small break room that could not be used for training sessions and limited bathroom facilities which were not ADA compliant.
“We built this facility with what we do in mind. In some cases, we built it for procedures we have in place. In other cases, we built it to improve our system,” Jerreld said.
Jerreld said the new facility is also more functional, from the driver check-in area and ample space to store route information for drivers to staff offices and an impressive maintenance and repair shop. The facility also has a large room that serves as both a training classroom and drivers’ break room. A divider separates the two spaces, but it can be opened up for all-staff trainings or other meetings. Enhanced technology – including an overhead projector and smartboard – will enable the district to conduct more training sessions.
“The training classroom is becoming one of my favorite spaces,” said Jerreld. “The only way we could have a full staff meeting in the past was to have everyone come up to the high school LGI.” That, he said, could be disruptive, with upwards of 50 employees traveling through the hallways while classes were in session.
The new repair shop features six service bays with easy access to a parts room and bus wash.
“We had six bays in the old bus garage, but we didn’t have space to put anything, so we lost one bay to storage,” said Jerreld.
Jerreld credits head mechanic Dave Rickard with configuring the parts room.
“Dave created that room to what he envisioned for storing and inventorying parts. The shelving was specked out the way he wanted it,” said Jerreld. The organization provides easier access to parts and makes tracking inventory a smoother process.
Jerreld said the new facility features improved mechanical lifts, including two in-ground lifts, two four-post lifts and a mobile column lift; the latter provides convenience and flexibility as mechanics can wheel it outside if needed.
There are some details that make doing the job easier and more efficient, such as having space to store spare tires indoors. In the old building, most of the tires were kept in an outside storage area. That meant tires had to be brought indoors to warm up a few days prior to being mounted on a bus.
There’s also improved safety in the shop. Hoses for liquids such as motor oil and transmission fluid are reeled overhead when they’re not in use. “That’s what keeps our floor space open and free of hazards that people can trip on,” said Jerreld.
Jerreld is particularly pleased with the on-site bus wash, complete with underbody washer. In the past, buses were typically washed every three to four months. Now, the buses are on a schedule (weather permitting) to go through the wash every two weeks.
“It’s a very powerful wash, so it does a good job cleaning. The underbody wash takes care of stuff we’ve never been able to take care of before,” he said. “Buses are very expensive, and this is going to protect the district’s investment by extending the life of the fleet.”
In addition to the increased space inside the new building, there’s more space on the outside as well.
Jerreld said there’s plenty of space for staff parking, and the bus parking area is significantly larger. That’s helpful for drivers making their daily bus inspections.
“The drivers do a pre-trip bus inspection every morning to make sure the bus is in good running order before they go out on the road,” said Jerreld. There’s a whole checklist drivers are required to go through – for example, checking all lights (including the flashers that come on when a bus stops to pick up a child) as well as brakes and tires. “They also make sure that there aren’t any cracked windows or broken seats. The lighting is better with more space between the buses, and there is more room to move around the bus. The drivers are with their bus every day, and they can spot if things are not right more easily.”
Ultimately, said Jerreld, what’s most important are the students being transported on more than 40 bus routes each day.
“The fact is that we can attract more drivers who want to come and work here because the environment is positive,” said Jerreld. “We make a commitment to safely transport kids. That’s what it’s all about: keeping kids safe. This facility is going to help us continue to do that and perhaps even improve our processes long-term.”