WILMINGTON — It only took over 10 years, but the MOOver's facility is up and running, and operations are reportedly running more efficient than ever.
"This site is 100 years old this year and it's had a fascinating history of manufacturing and fire and flood and colorful characters," Southeast Vermont Transit CEO Randy Schoonmaker said during a celebration and tour of the new facility at 45 Mill Street in Wilmington on Tuesday, Nov. 17.
The Deerfield Valley Transit Association purchased the site in 2004 for $285,000 from Bob Grinold. The Wilmington resident and businessman had bought it for $13,000 at auction.
The $5.6 million project brought all the MOOver's operations under one roof. The office was previously located in Dover. Another $538,780 was needed for planning, remediation and permitting. Altogether, the facility spans over 15,600 square feet.
As a brownfields site, the property required fabric plus either concrete, pavement or six inches of imported soil over the entire 9.5 acres. The building was last used as a barn board factory. Pieces of the board made at the site decorate parts of the new facility's wall.
Outside, Riverwalk is 900 feet of trail with five kiosks describing the site's past. And Schoonmaker and his daughter had plans to make a scrapbook documenting the building's history. But they ended up authoring a book, "45 Mill Street."
A SMART Board allows for board meetings between the MOOver and the Rockingham-based busing service known as the Current. Schoonmaker said the companies — previously known as the Deerfield Valley Transit Association and the Connecticut River Transit — "blended together" over a year ago to become the Southeast Vermont Transit on July 1. The Current covers 31 towns while the MOOVer has six.
"We spend a lot of times trading and sharing documents with our staff to prevent having to drive back and forth," he said as he showed off the meeting room. "We just had our MOOverU refresher course, where we bring our drivers in for a week and we provide them with safety review and training before the winter season starts. The room gets a lot of use and it's been great to have."
In the lobby, a coffee table was crafted using a box made in the 1950s. At that time, the site was home to New England Box Company, which made boxes for ammunition, fruit and bread. One of the MOOver's drivers found the box, said Schoonmaker.
MOOver officials spent several years researching the project, visiting transit facilities across the United States. Their goals were to minimize the time for washing, fueling and parking while eliminating the need for drivers to get out of the vehicles besides to refuel. Also, they wanted to eliminate vehicles having to back up for parking and exiting.
"We have 25 vehicles and we're about to get four more," Schoonmaker said. "The idea is to circulate straight out and start your day."
According to Schoonmaker, the wash bay sees that 80 percent of the 100 gallons of water needed to wash the buses is recycled. The recycled water is electrically shocked, run through a sand filter then secured for the next wash. The facility has the only bus dryer in the state and its blowers move air at 140 miles per hour. These operations are said to reduce wash time from 20 minutes down to seven minutes. An additional minute is needed for drying.
"The bus triggers sensors in the pavement and inside the wash bay that open the garage doors which in turn relay commands to the bush wash and dryers. Three sets of traffic lights direct drivers when to enter, wash, dry and exit," MOOver documents stated. "A high-powered undercarriage wash cleans underneath the bus, its tires and rocker panels to scrub away much of the salt and other corrosives accumulated after a day or night's work. The special pneumatic wash bay doors open in eight seconds versus fourteen seconds for an electric door. Secondary infrared heat comes on when the doors open to recapture lost heat, keeping the wash bay as warm as possible and the pipes from freezing."
The garage bays feature several lifts used when making repairs or handling maintenance. The flooring has radiant heat. Schoonmaker said many of the large ceiling ducts are automatic carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide removal systems. Now, his group can address five buses at a time rather than one.
"It's cool. It's got sky lights and a lot of natural air," he said.
Inside the sign shop, laundry can be cleaned and washed with special machines and detergents to get at the grease. Equipment in there allows the company to make its own vinyl signs. Commercial sewing, for grill covers, ski rack covers and other items, takes place there too. Schoonmaker noted a savings seen by performing these jobs on site.
A room next door is used for welding.
"We have two drivers who make bike and ski racks," said Schoonmaker, noting the equipment is kept off the vehicles. "That is a ski rack that will hold 36 pairs of ski. It has got pins on the back of it and holders. We have been all around the United States looking at ski racks. We don't want to puncture the sides of the buses and we want to be able to accommodate all the different sized and shaped skis that are out there now."
Two buses can be fueled at once with the facility's outdoor 12,000-gallon fuel tank. The company can measure humidity, temperature, and miles per gallon per bus and route.
Representation at the ceremony spanned from local to state to federal, including groups such as VTrans, Windham Regional Commission, Sen. Patrick Leahy's office, Environmental Protection Agency, WW Building Supply, Mount Snow ski resort and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Plus, police, fire and town officials were present.
"Senator Leahy is our funding patron saint," said Schoonmaker, referring to funds the Congressman had earmarked for the project. "We're very glad to be in this building with all of your help. Each and every one of you have played an important role. What we have is what you gave us. Thank you very much."
The MOOver is one big team, Schoonmaker said, and almost everyone on it has a second job.
"We try to cover every function in house and do it ourselves so we can control it and hopefully do it for less," he added.