LIVINGSTON — A proposal to expand the office space of the Livingston Parish school system’s Transportation Department was shelved March 3 amid budget concerns arising from the state’s looming deficit.
Transportation Supervisor Steve Vampran told the School Board’s Transportation Committee that a recent restructure of his department gave him a new shop manager but left him without enough space to operate as efficiently as he would like.
Vampran proposed expanding the office to help it operate more like a dealership, where drivers bringing buses for maintenance or repairs would leave their keys and work requests with someone at a counter, who would then have the vehicle moved over to the shop.
The employee who handles those functions operates out of a conference room, where she is frequently interrupted, Vampran said.
Vampran initially looked at closing in one of the shop’s bays that is rarely used but, after discussions with Superintendent John Watson and Assistant Superintendent Joe Murphy, decided it might be better to expand the office and keep the small bay free for the growing district’s future needs.
Closing in the small, rarely used bay would cost about $30,250, while building the addition would cost about $38,000, School Board Vice President Buddy Mincey Jr. said.
With only a $7,750 difference, Mincey said he would rather expand the space than close in a bay that might be needed in the future.
Watson said he thought Vampran’s proposal was a good one, though he did have some concern about the timing.
“I think we’re going to be OK from a state budget standpoint,” Watson said. “We just don’t know, you never know, what’s going to come out of the session. ... It’s just a matter, in my opinion, of trying to hold a little bit closer to the vest with funding right now.”
Board member Karen Schmitt said the district should be watching every expense, no matter how small. She said she could not support the extra cost for an expansion when some of the department’s employees told her during a recent tour of the shop that they don’t really need the small bay.
“We can’t afford to say, ‘$8,000 here, $20,000 there,’ ” Schmitt said. “If we have the money, it doesn’t mean we have to spend it anyway. That’s what’s going on in Baton Rouge. This is on a smaller scale, of course, but it’s the principle of the thing.”
Mincey said continuing to use a space that is not suited to the department’s needs also creates costs for the district.
“Over time, the manpower loss from inefficiencies is just as big a concern as that $8,000 difference in cost,” Mincey said. “To me, it’s a bigger issue.”
Board President Malcolm Sibley said he also found it difficult to support Vampran’s proposal at this time.
“I think this whole thing, if it would’ve just waited, I could even support it,” Sibley told Vampran. “It’s just the timing.”
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.