Winter Garden residents, city manager oppose OCPS bus depot proposal

Proposed project consists of 200 bus parking spots, a repair building and maintenance building

WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – Orange County Public Schools presented details of a proposed plan to construct a bus depot for residents who live nearby Wednesday evening.

The proposed project consists of 200 bus parking spots, a repair building and a maintenance building. The project also includes fuel pumps.

The property is currently the site of Orange Technical College Westside Campus. A new location for the campus is already under construction and school leaders are determining what to do with the property once it’s vacant.

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Ed Johnson attended the meeting and told district leaders the property holds significant importance to the Black community. From 1956 to 1969, Dr. Charles Drew High School was in operation, named after an African American doctor who pioneered the study of blood plasma.

“This school is named after an African American to inspire African Americans in the community, it is extremely significant and it happens to be Black History Month,” Johnson said.

Johnson also said his father took his first teaching job at the school as well.

With the addition of several hundred vehicles parking in the neighborhood, Johnson said too often minority communities live in neighborhoods with poor air quality.

Studies released show Pine Hills and Winter Garden already have lower air quality levels than the communities nearby.

“It’s very difficult to keep those things out of the soil and the water, but also air quality will be pretty bad for the citizens when you have 200 additional buses, 200 cars in the area. That can be an issue,” Johnson said.

The City of Winter Garden said during the meeting that it does not support the construction of the bus depot due to public outcry.

“It’s clear to us that the residents are in opposition of it. We stand with them in opposing any changes to this site,” City Manager Jon Williams said.

Orange County School Board Vice President Melissa Byrd said she isn’t surprised by the community’s opposition to the project and said concerns of air quality in the neighborhood are legitimate.

“It’s a serious issue and it’s definitely one that needs to be looked at and I’m hoping we can address it and I hope we can definitely find a different area,” Byrd said.

Byrd also said the property will not be vacant for several years, adding there is no rush on a decision.

OCPS said relocating the bus depot to Winter Garden from Pine Hills would save them $1,200,000 per year.

About the Author:

Troy graduated from California State University Northridge with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication. He has reported on Mexican drug cartel violence on the El Paso/ Juarez border, nuclear testing facilities at the Idaho National Laboratory and severe Winter weather in Michigan.