MATTOON -- For years, the school's buses would flood out of what was the Brown Shoe Factory in the wee hours of the morning. Now the school district's transportation staff has found a new home in the former M & M Pump & Supply.
Located at 4814 Paradise Road, the property is still a work in progress, Mark Nelson, Transportation Director for the Mattoon district, said, but it has become the more efficient new home for the district bus and maintenance staff.
"It reeks of efficiency," Nelson said.
The property is smaller in size, but bigger in space in comparison to the former shoe factory, the director said. The Brown Shoe Factory property technically had a lot of space, but much of it was usable or oddly shaped for the numerous buses at the district's disposal.
The old space was also falling apart, to the point where staff on a particular rainy windy day would find themselves picking up pieces on the ground from the roof often.
Nelson said buses have been making their way in and out of the bus lot off Route 45 for more than a month now with no new bus routes necessary as a result of the move.
Roger Sanders, district bus driver of almost 15 years, said it was nice to be in the new space with new equipment. Despite the history at the former property, he said there wasn't much reminiscing over the old space. He said the new place was a much needed improvement. He was especially excited about the new bus washing equipment that wasn't as manual an experience as it had been.
"By the end of a couple of buses, you were so sore," Sanders said.
The building, which now houses a garage to work on the buses, a new portable bus washing station, a bigger office and break room for transportation staff, and a bigger space for storage, has been a welcomed improvement over their previous location.
Nelson said the office is still needs some renovations completed and some equipment and supplies brought in, but the staff have largely moved into the new space. The work is expected to be done by Spring.
The property will house the buses, support staff for transportation, and an on-site fuel depot as was the case at the former shoe factory. The JG-TC reported previously that the City of Mattoon once shared the district's fuel depot at the former Brown Shoe Factory property. The city has since opted to create a depot of its own at the new Mattoon Public Works Department building along DeWitt Avenue East.
Since the Mattoon School District sold the shoe factory property to Gold Nugget Properties LLC in April and the district's transportation services moved out, the building has laid empty with no perceivable changes made to the property since the change of hands.
No confirmation has been made by the company whether or not the building will be renovated instead of demolished.
Mattoon school officials had pointed out the structural issues within the 1920s-era building in a Board meeting months back.