Construction Concerns

Allen ISD says $37 million bus barn won't meet same fate as shuttered football stadium

Allen ISD says $37M bus barn won't meet same fate as football stadium

Allen ISD recently shuttered its $60 million football stadium because of safety concerns. But that's not the district's only major construction project to fall under scrutiny.

The stadium's little brother, a $37 million service center that will house all the district's school buses, was slated to open in fall 2014. Like the beleaguered Eagle Stadium, the bus barn was funded by a 2009 bond package. It was also designed by PBK Architects and will be built by Pogue Construction.

 An engineering report on Allen ISD's service center identified five potential problems related to cracking in the walls, corners and slab.

Understandably, this commonality caused AISD some concern.

"After learning of possible engineering problems at Eagle Stadium in February, the Allen ISD board of trustees hired a second engineering firm to review the engineering drawings prepared by PBK Architects for the district's service center that is now under construction," superintendent Lance Hindt said in a statement to CultureMap Dallas.

In addition to space for 130 buses, the service center will contain a maintenance shop and fueling station with around 25,000 gallons of fuel. It will also house the district's food service department.

Datum Engineers of Dallas completed its review of the center in April and identified 37 questionable areas, including issues with the foundation that sound eerily similar to the problems at Eagle Stadium.

According to a copy of the review obtained by CultureMap, Datum Engineers said the reinforcing steel was "too low in the slab to be effective in preventing concrete shrinking cracks." In response, PBK Architects defended their choices, and the issue was marked "closed" on June 5.

Built in 2012, Eagle Stadium has been closed since February 27, when extensive cracks in the concourse were first discovered.

The report on the service center identified five separate potential problems related to cracking in walls, corners and the slab. Datum also raised concerns about the service center's roof structure and its ability to protect against "wind pressure forces."

The completion date for the project has been pushed back to April 2015. Hindt said the issues identified through the review were "minor issues that are normal for a project of this size."

"Datum tells us that it is satisfied that each item it raised has been addressed," Hindt said. "We will continue to have Datum monitor and review the project as construction continues."

Although opposition to the service center was once white hot, neighbors have mostly cooled down on the issue. Suzanne White, who lives in the Quail Run neighborhood directly across the street from the bus barn, says she's "hoping for the best."

"Everyone is sort of resigned to it happening," White says. "There's still a lot of concern, especially around the fuel tanks, but what's done is done. I don't think we have any more control over it."

The bus barn and fuel storage area will be located about 1,000 feet away from Cheatham Elementary. After public outcry, AISD hired independent consultants to conduct environmental impact studies in the area. The studies, which covered traffic, air and water quality, found the addition of a bus barn would not have a significant impact on the area.

AISD spokesperson Tim Carroll has repeatedly defended the service center as a safe and necessary project for a growing district. The current bus facility was built in 1982 when AISD had 5,000 students. Today, there are around 20,000.

White says when she heard about the issues at the stadium, her old concerns came up again. "I feel like it is destined to be the same kind of problem as the stadium," she says. "We're going to build this bus barn and discover there's a huge environmental risk, and what are we going to do then? Shut it down."

A fleet of school buses
In addition to space for 130 buses, the new Allen service center will contain a maintenance shop and fueling station with around 25,000 gallons of fuel.  Photo courtesy of University of Alabama
Austin photo: News_Allen High School_Stadium
Allen's new football stadium was approved in the same bond package as the hotly contested bus barn.  Photo courtesy of Allen ISD
Map of Cheatham Elementary School
The bus barn and fuel storage area will be located about 1,000 feet away from Cheatham Elementary in Allen. Photo courtesy of Allen ISD