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Education Gateway includes bus garage, Yellow Jacket Drive extension

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — The field house may be the most talked about facility in Mount Vernon City Schools’ Education Gateway, but the importance of the $2 million bus garage and the extension of Yellow Jacket Drive should not be overlooked.

The current bus garage on Harcourt Road is in desperate need of upgrades and the district would like to centralize its transportation department. Relocating to the middle/high school campus will not only save time and money, but will provide a facility adequate for bus size and prepare for the future, according to William Seder, Superintendent of Mount Vernon City Schools.

The original plan situated the bus garage next door to the field house. The developing partnership with Mount Vernon Nazarene University increased the size of the field house requiring the need for a new location for the garage and buses. Leaders found space north of the middle school for the facility but lacked an area for bus parking.

“With the bus garage on our property line, MVNU has cooperated by offering a long-term lease for land to park our buses,” Seder said.

The garage will feature four bays, a wash bay, maintenance and transportation departments and will be modernized to be Compressed Natural Gas compatible, according to Seder.

“The garage will be funded through a Tax Anticipation Loan and we will have to use Permanent Improvement dollars for this,” Seder said. “Our goal is to pay off this 10-year note as quickly as possible.”

 Yellow Jacket Drive extension

The school district and Mount Vernon City Council have been discussing extending Yellow Jacket Drive to Cougar Drive for several years, but have been stuck on the price tag of over $2 million. However, connecting with the right people and thinking outside the box has opened the doors for an innovative collaboration.

Bob Tiell, treasurer of Jacket Boosters Inc., unveiled a plan to City Council in July 2018 that would build the foundation of the road with a significant cost savings. By partnering with the Ohio Operating Engineers, the project will drop the cost of the extension development to about $500,000. Surface asphalt is not included as part of this plan.

“Andy Fox with Kokosing Construction put us in touch with Ohio Operating Engineers,” said Tiell. “Using this as a training program, they will provide labor and equipment to build the Yellow Jacket Drive extension. This is something that has been on a wish list for 20 years.”

Adding another entrance/exit to the school campus is a safety issue for the district.

“Safety and access are the primary reasons why the Yellow Jacket Drive extension is so important,” said Seder. “During arrival and dismissal times, nearly 2,800 students and parents currently rely on just two access points to MVHS/MVMS campus. The addition of Yellow Jacket Drive extension to Cougar Drive would provide a third access point that would greatly improve school safety and the traffic flow around the campus.”

According to Seder, the district will pay for the $500,000 needed to build the road’s foundation from Permanent Improvement funds as well as additional funds donated to the district through fundraising efforts.

Before work can begin on the extension, the City of Mount Vernon plans to install a new water line that will provide proper pressure to support the fire suppression system needed in the field house.

MVNU will provide an easement for the water line and has agreed to donate the land for the road extension as it will connect the new Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium with the high school campus and Cougar Drive.

Both city and school officials would like to see the gravel extension complete before the Mount Vernon Avenue bridge replacement project starts later this year. Having another access option to the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant on Cougar Drive could be necessary during times when Cougar Drive is closed at Mount Vernon Avenue.

“The timing of these projects — the Education Gateway Project and MVNU’s Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium complex — has provided an excellent opportunity for MNVU and MVCS to expand what we offer to both student bodies, as well as the surrounding community,” said James Smith, MVNU’s Vice President for University Relations. “Our collaboration will allow us to find efficiencies and ultimately save money in the long run. Historically, many institutions only had eyes for their own well-being, but all over Ohio we have begun to see communities finding partners to work together on collaborations like this. All of these projects really demonstrate the spirit of Knox County and the city of Mount Vernon. We desire to work together to continue to make this a wonderful place to live.”