‘I don’t have to worry about hearing that noise again’: Neighbors celebrate as buses leave Hampshire Street for new facility

Bus barn

Buses are lined up Tuesday afternoon to leave the bus barn at 20th and Hampshire one last time. | David Adam

QUINCY — Employees with the Quincy Public Schools’ transportation department are nearly finished with the move into their new home.

Some of the neighbors couldn’t be happier.

The former K&L Arena at 1600 N. 43rd, which QPS bought for $2 million in June 2022, will be the site of the district’s maintenance, transportation and information technology departments. Bus drivers were asked Tuesday to leave their bus at what is now being called the central services building when they completed their last route of the 2023-24 school year.

“There’s some obvious logistical things that we’ll have to do differently,” said Scott Douglas, director of transportation for Quincy Public Schools. “That’ll change some of our routing stuff and how we do things. But to be frank, it’s really not a big change.”

Douglas said the department’s communication system and one final piece of equipment must still be relocated to the new facility. Buses will need to refuel this summer at Flinn Stadium — where some of the school district’s buses were parked during the school year — until the fuel depot is in place.

The transportation department is almost finished leaving its bus barn, a facility on the southwest corner of 20th and Hampshire. 

“For us, the space is just going to be much better,” Douglas said. “We’re not working out of two places. We’re working out of one. Heck, you could go a year without seeing some people very much. Now at least we’ll be able to see people who we’ve worked in the same department on a daily basis as opposed to every so often. So that’ll be nice.”

That news is music — or maybe more appropriately, it’s silence — to the ears of people living near the facility. 

Alarms on the district’s 80 school buses would sound when they backed up each time they left and returned to the parking lot. The daily noise level, which typically started at about 7 a.m. on weekdays during the school year and continued periodically through the day until about 4:30 p.m., was a “mental anguish,” according to neighbor Leroy Rossmiller.

Rossmiller started a neighborhood petition in 2020 to ask for the buses to be moved from the bus barn and fought the Quincy School Board about noise issues. However, the response was slow from school officials, who were focusing their time trying to educate students during the pandemic.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires back-up beepers on industrial vehicles. The number of buses with back-up alarms grew gradually in Quincy during the past few years. The school district leases its buses, so when new buses with the alarms were added to the fleet, they were replacing buses without the alarms.

The noise got worse and worse for Rossmiller.

“Now I don’t have to worry about hearing that noise again … ever,” Rossmiller said Tuesday afternoon, moments before the buses left the bus barn one last time.  “Or seeing those big, ugly yellow monstrosities.”

Rossmiller said he never could get used to hearing the noise.

“I still didn’t go outside when (the buses were out) there,” he said. “In the meantime, radiation burned up my hearing, so now I can just take my hearing aids out when I go out.

“I’m glad (the bus barn is) gone, even though the wait was forever.”

The noise and parking issues in the neighborhood also were an issue for Jessica Dedert, who lives with her husband and two children on the northeast corner of 20th and Hampshire, a few yards from the bus barn. She said she become pretty good at blocking out noise, but her husband never got used to it.

“My husband grew up in the country, so living in town was something to adjust to,” Dedert said. “You have the police sirens and the ambulances and the motorcycles making loud noises. I could get used to it. I could tune it out.

“But I could see where, especially the retired community, they’re trying to sit out on their porch and just enjoy being outside and it probably became a real drain on their emotional state. They just couldn’t enjoy being outside.”

Dedert believes the neighborhood will be safer with less traffic, as well as being quieter.

Rossmiller said (in jest) he would carry a beeper in his pocket for a few days to help him go through withdrawal from the noise. Then he said he wanted to hug Betty and Cecil Potter, who lived on the north side of Hampshire directly across from the bus barn.

“I’m going to tell them we won,” Rossmiller said. “They’re the ones who suffered the most. When I took up the charge (to ask for the removal of buses), it was as much for them as it was for me. I thought it was ridiculous that those people should live straight across from there and not be able to sit on their front porch.

“I’m ready for a little quiet in this neighborhood.”

Ryan Whicker, chief of business operations, said the school district has no plans for future use of the bus barn.

“We hope to auction the building off sometime this fall,” he said. 

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