- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 22, 2007

The court-appointed administrator for D.C. public schools’ transportation department wants to consolidate the bus system outside of the city, but faces strong opposition from the school board.

“This a smart, well thought out prospective plan,” administrator David Gilmore said. “There are no facilities in the city that are remotely large enough or compatible with the type of equipment we operate with.”

The roughly $46 million, 10-year plan is for leasing a 104-acre site on Sheriff Road in Landover that would sharply improve efficiency and save money, Mr. Gilmore said.

Mr. Gilmore was appointed administrator in 2003 as part of a settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed by parents upset with poor management of the transportation division.

Mr. Gilmore’s proposal follows a biannual report he must submit to D.C. District Court and states current facilities are substandard and inefficient and that property in the District is costly.

The report also states the on-time performance for the buses, which serve special-education students, has increased from 86 percent, compared to 35 percent in 2002 and that leases on two of the system’s facilities expire this spring and these facilities must be vacated by summer.

The eight-member board postponed a decision on the proposal for the second time Wednesday night, citing concerns about the length of the lease and the location of the facility.

“I have a problem any time residents’ dollars travel outside the city line,” said board Vice President Carolyn N. Graham.

The $4.6 million annual cost would include base rent, operating expenses and improvements, which will save about $1.1 million a year.

School board spokeswoman Natalie Williams said the board revised the contract length to five years for Mr. Gilmore’s consideration.

However, as the court-appointed administrator, Mr. Gilmore is not required to get approval from the board for any agreement.

Mr. Gilmore said he presented the proposal to the board because he would like a cooperative effort and that he might consider other options, if his is rejected.

Miss Williams said board members would not take further action if they reject Mr. Gilmore’s proposal, then he overrules them.

Board member William Lockridge said he would prefer a shorter deal be negotiated with the District to benefit the city.

“When [David Gilmore] leaves, he has the power to greatly impact our system,” he said. “This is something that can be negotiated with the city.”

The site is a former Giant Food warehouse, and with improvements would have office space, indoor bus parking and maintenance and gas and washing facilities.

Mr. Gilmore said buses could be deployed quickly because the site is close to Route 50 and Interstates 295 and 495.

Consolidation could begin as early as June. No layoffs among the division’s 1,500 employees are anticipated as a result of the move.

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