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Hot potato! Which ward(s) may end up hosting about 40 school buses, at least during the day on school days, and according to this flier, even during summers?
This came up at last week’s Lincoln-Eliot PTO meeting, and was posted on the Newton Corner googlegroup. And it somewhat explains the rising School Department budget discussed in an earlier thread.
As Ward 1 School Committee member Ellen Gibson explained on the Newton Corner googlegroup:

I thought I would offer some more background information about the current bus contract, bid process and why NPS and the School Committee are even considering parking buses on city property.

We are at the end of our current contract.  We put an RFP/RFQ out to vendors for bids.  We received only 1 bid at a significant increase over our existing contract (I want to say about 22% more,  but I don’t have the info in front of me).   Transportation costs are one of the biggest cost drivers in our projected FY18 budget deficit of $2.8 million.

One of the reasons we only received one bid is because we do not house the buses in Newton.  As this was explored further, the possibility of reducing the overall bus contract amount emerged as a possibility if we were to park the buses in the city.  The savings would be about $300,000 per year or $1.5 million over 5 years.  

The city and School Department began exploring locations throughout the city.  The two that emerged were Newton South High School (approx.. 20-25 buses) and the Aquinas property (approx. 15-20 buses). Neither solution is good and the hope is to mitigate as much as possible the challenges that both of these locations pose.

Nearby residents and parents are concerned about the noise, traffic, air pollution, and loss of playground space at the north end of the Aquinas lot that appears to be involved. I don’t even live there, and I would be upset to see playground space lost, and trees lost if a new curb cut and driveway are created from Jackson Road.

A further update from Ellen indicates that Scott Lennon and Cheryl Lappin are working hard to find a solution that does not involve Aquinas or Newton South. So what next, on to the sites that were considered and rejected? And I don’t know what they were. Perhaps someone on the School Committee can provide the list, so councilors from other wards can be prepared?

Isn’t Aquinas already intended to be the offsite parking for the Austin Street construction project, with shuttle buses to Newtonville? How much more must this neighborhood be burdened?

And speaking of Austin Street, “who knew” how valuable a parking lot could be? Is any city property really “surplus”?

Tomorrow night’s School Committee (Monday, March 13, 7pm) includes a public forum on the proposal to park school buses in Newton.

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