By GREG RUSSELL
Register Staff Writer
Administrative decisions in September will steer the fate of the Franklin Operations Center at 400 Harvey Street in Gainesville.
The building, which was formerly — and for decades — a multistory elementary school campus, is currently used as a maintenance equipment warehouse while a private area behind the school serves as a school bus repository.
Gainesville Independent School District (GISD) Superintendent Jeff Brasher said Friday that the district’s transportation and maintenance departments are still using the building for those reasons, but its timeworn condition makes a change seem preferable.
A September school board meeting agenda will include an item regarding the Franklin building.
“It’s about what’s best for our district in the long term,” Brasher said. “You want a quality facility that adequately meets the needs of the district. And in my opinion, and not speaking for the rest of the board, the Franklin building has served its purpose very well but it’s old and antiquated and inefficient and I don’t think it’s suitable to meet needs.”
One example, Brasher said, is that the Harvey Street property provides plentiful room to park school buses, but when those buses need maintenance, the Franklin building doesn’t provide any kind of garage space.
“It’s not adequate for that, but we have great mechanics who make it work,” he said.
The September meeting will decide whether the Franklin building is maintained or demolished — or sold on the condition that it is demolished. Bid advertisements have already been published, Brasher said, and he will recommend to the board in September that officials do away with the Franklin building and seek to construct a new transportation department on Radio Hill Road, near the district’s alternative education building.
Other GISD officials concur.
“I think it would be beneficial for the district to have their buses out of town in a private location,” said Jim Watson of the GISD maintenance department.
For now, however, buses will remain parked behind the Franklin building and two school departments will continue to use it as their operations center.
“What the board is trying to do is explore their options,” Brasher said. “We’re not prepared already to make a final decision.”