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A spacious 20,000-square-foot warehouse - purchased and remodeled by the Sevier School District at a cost of $475,000 - will benefit the purchasing, school food and transportation departments for about the same cost now required for only the transportation department.

Money for the new complex is coming from the capital outlay fund, one-time monies earmarked for building construction and site improvement.The new facility is long overdue, said Samuel Ware, district business administrator. "Building priorities in recent years have been given to needed classrooms while the food service department has grown along with enrollment and the transportation department has suffered from lack of room to grow."

The complex is about two miles northeast of Richfield, adjacent to former U.S. 89. It was formerly used as a wholesale grocery warehouse.

Architect Dan Losee said he was impressed the building meets the needs of all the departments involved. "This is a very economical building with no wasted space in the entire complex."

District officials said transportation facilities at 200 South and 500 West in Richfield have become inadequate, and it would not be financially feasible to repair the buildings. An underground gasoline storage tank won't meet new federal regulations. There have also been safety concerns because the facility is near three schools where traffic is increasing.

Ware said about 51 percent of the district's 4,750 students are riding buses daily.

Transportation facilities are outmoded. Ware said more than 75 vehicles are being kept clean with a portable hand washing unit that was purchased in the 1960s "when buses were smaller, the fleet was smaller, and there were 1,800 fewer students (in the district)." It has also been difficult to repair larger buses at the present location, but spacious mechanic bays will be provided in the new building.

A drive-through bus wash and loading docks are among special features of the new facility.

But there's one thing that won't be provided for the transportation department. The district will no longer dispense gasoline for buses. Ware believes there will be savings through using a keylock system that will be provided by a local business that will supply fuel at state bid prices.

Advantages for the food department will be significant. The new facility will allow better air circulation and temperature control for storing food products.

It will also enable the district to increase participation in multi-district cooperative purchasing, which means lower prices for some food supplies. More government commodities can also be accepted and stored in the mostly concrete building.

School officials noted that after a large freezer was installed in 1987, the food service department could accept more frozen commodities. Savings were so significant and the investment was amortized so quickly that the freezer was enlarged the next year.

School supplies are being delivered to the new complex and it will be ready for other uses before school begins in the fall. Brienholt Construction of Richfield contracted the remodeling.