Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Covington schools to move buses

Property was owned by transportation boss' grandmother

By Lori Hayes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Covington Independent Schools is moving its buses next month to a site in Latonia.

        The district recently bought the land from one of its bus drivers, who is also the grandmother of her boss, the district's transportation director.

        “We looked throughout the city,” Superintendent Jack Moreland said. “Finding a place to park 26 school buses in Covington isn't the easiest thing to do. This is the only piece of property within the range we wanted to spend that would do for us what we needed.”

[photo] Property at the corner of Eugenia and Southern avenues was bought by Covington Independent Schools for its school bus garage and lot
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        The district paid $350,000 for the one-acre site at Eugenia and Southern avenues. It includes a two-story house, a 6,000-square-foot garage and a third 4,400-square-foot building.

        Covington bought the land from Rose Green, who has worked for the district as a bus monitor and driver for 22 years. Mrs. Green is the grandmother of Transportation Director Willie Green.

        State law doesn't prohibit public schools from buying property from employees, unless the employee makes financial decisions for the district.

        “Since the bus driver has no decision-making authority, there would be no legal conflict,” said Brad Hughes, a spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association.

        Covington was looking for a new site for its buses and transportation offices based on recommendations from state auditors, who blasted the district's bus garage last spring as inadequate and poorly maintained.

        The district has housed its transportation department and buses at the city's bus garage on Boron Drive since 1984. The city allowed the schools to use the site for free; however, the district couldn't make any changes to the facility, said Rod Fisk, the district's budget and finance director.

        The district was also paying retail prices for diesel fuel because it couldn't put gas tanks on the city property, Mr. Green said.

        “That kills my budget,” he said. The new site will allow the district to buy its own fuel tanks. It also will give the district more office space for the transportation department's 40-member staff.

        District officials looked at several possible sites for the new garage, including the old Wads- worth building at 11th and Madison, a factory near Pioneer Park and an area off Pleasant Street, Mr. Fisk said.

        “We could find land, but we couldn't find buildings and land,” he said.

        Mrs. Green's property, formerly a used-car lot, included Ace Auto Mart, an automobile repair shop operated by Mr. Green's brother and sister. Mrs. Green had lived in the house, which faces Eugenia Avenue, since 1965, but her family had been trying to sell the property for about five years, Mr. Green said.

        Mr. Green was not involved in the sale, but as transportation director, he did participate in the district's search for a new garage site, Mr. Fisk said.

        The Kenton County Property Valuation Administrator's office last valued the land at $186,000 in 1997. Before the sale, Meade and Associates, a real estate appraisal company in Fort Mitchell, appraised the property for the district at $345,000, Mr. Fisk said.

        Mark Vogt, property valuation administrator for Kenton County, said the sale price is high for Latonia.

        “But this is an exceptional piece of property because of the garage,” he said. “It was probably a good deal for the Board of Education because the garage is already there and they don't have to build one.”

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