GILLETTE, Wyo. — The Campbell County School District’s lengthy search for a place to build a new bus barn facility came to an end Tuesday morning with the acquisition of property off West Warlow Drive.
The property, located in the Bicentennial Park Subdivision, was awarded to the school district by the Campbell County Commissioners on April 18, bringing an end to a search spanning years and multiple county commissions.
The future bus barn location along the Warlow Drive corridor will place the facility in close proximity to several schools and other facilities, including the YES House school and the Boys and Girls Club of Campbell County, according to Keith Chrans, school district transportation supervisor.
It’s a busy area with as many as 18 buses completing morning and afternoon routes, Chrans said, adding that the district has not received any complaints or concerns from people living in the surrounding neighborhoods.
“Buses are kind of an icon in our community,” Chrans said. The school district buses around half its students on school days, the most of any school district in Wyoming, and buses are kind of an icon in the community, he said.
The new bus barn construction will adhere to strict guidelines like screening requirements, barriers and other things related to privacy, according to Chrans, who said he felt it was going to be a great and aesthetically pleasing addition to the community.
It’s also the only feasible location for a new bus barn, according to Commission Chairwoman Colleen Faber, who said other options looked at in recent months were deemed a no-go due to significant environmental or utility hurdles and large price tags.
Support for a new bus barn facility, however, was divided during the commission’s April 18 meeting, with Commissioners Kelly McCreery and Butch Knutson speaking out against the land transfer to the school district.
McCreery said he was opposed to the transfer because the school district owns property on Southern Drive.
“I just can’t get past this thing that you own property and you won’t build on it. And that’s my opinion,” McCreery said.
Knutson said he felt his constituents were against the transfer and raised concerns over accessibility issues that could come up if railroad crossings at Brooks Avenue, South Burma Avenue and Gurley Avenue were blocked.
He also said that Gillette is growing south, not north, and building a new bus barn on the north end of town to replace the one that’s been in place for 50 years didn’t make sense.
“And so, if we build another one on the north side of town, it’s going to be there approximately 50 years and everything is going south,” Knutson said, adding that the proposed location could generate additional fuel costs for the school district down the road.
The price of fuel is a concern that should be handled by the Campbell County School District Board of Trustees, Commissioner Del Shelstad said, pointing out that the county was the one that set the school district on the path that led them to Warlow Drive in the first place.
“It wasn’t their idea, it was ours,” Shelstad said, and the county was the one to set the land out for the school district following decisions by previous commissions with the understanding that people could use the parking lot for overflow parking during events at Bicentennial Park.
They could discuss the bus barn going anywhere and someone was bound to be upset one way or the other, Shelstad said.
“I’ve heard lots of comments either way. I just feel kind of responsible that we set you down this path and it wouldn’t be fair and it wouldn’t be the right thing to do to say no at this point for me,” Shelstad said.
The land was awarded to the school district in a majority vote, with Knutson and McCreery voting against it.