GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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December 19, 2012

City move chills Fuller workers

The public school’s transportation department is now operating in rooms without water and warmed solely by space heaters.

That’s because the city shut off heat to the majority of the building Monday and turned off the water flow Tuesday to about 50 working city employees, including the transportation manager Kathy Verga and a group of bus drivers and mechanics.

Those employees, in and out of the office on a daily basis and often training in another room and resting in a break room between shifts, are getting their warmth from four space heaters, and must walk about 350 feet down the hall to a bathroom still open in the portion of the building used by public school administrators.

Verga said the department’s present location within the Fuller school building has been ideal since they moved in two years ago, with plenty of room for storage of cleaning supplies and bus parts, a space for a break room for drivers, bathroom facilities for the drivers and staff, a safe area to park buses, and training space for mandatory sessions.

”This is the perfect space for us. It’s more than adequate,” said Verga.

The mayor’s office, however, decided to shut down the majority of the building in order to slash $150,000 to $200,000 in heating and water fees off a $300,000 annual bill, according to City Hall Chief of Staff James Duggan. Duggan said the city already relocated many of the departments that had been located in that portion of the building. But with 24 buses, a large staff, and a need for training space, the city schools’ transportation department poses a more difficult conundrum.

Still, Duggan said, the city will find a space for the department, whether it be in the Fuller School building or in another city-owned property.

”If a scenario doesn’t work out, then the fall back would be the part of the building that’s occupied,” Duggan said. “It’s not a turn key situation. People (in other departments) will have to be moved ... and things will have to be changed around.”

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