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New London finds home for school bus fleet — for now

New London — It appears the city has found a new home for the fleet of school buses readying for the new school year.

A tentative agreement worked out by New London Parking Director Carey Redd would allow Student Transportation of America to park its fleet of about three dozen buses in the parking lot of the vacant Thames River Apartments complex.

The buses were moved to Groton after the city opted not to renew a contract with M&T Parking. M&T was leasing a parcel of property at 41 Walbach St. in the Fort Trumbull area and subleasing the parking lot to the bus company.

Having the buses crossing the Gold Star Memorial Bridge each day during a major construction project, aside from the inconvenience and extra hours for drivers, had raised some concerns about potential delays.

While it was the city that worked out a lease agreement, it is the New London Housing Authority that must first sign the deal. The Housing Authority still owns the property, despite the City Council's recent approval of a purchase and sales agreement.

The city has agreed to pay $185,000 for the 12-acre property, though the City Council has yet to approve the appropriation of the funds for that purchase.

Betsy Gibson, chairwoman of the Housing Authority board of commissioners, said a meeting is scheduled for Tuesday for commissioners to vote on the contract. She said the dollar amount is still a matter of negotiation but said the board has agreed in principle to its terms.

Mayor Michael Passero said absent an agreement, the buses would have been running back and forth between Groton and New London each day, something “not acceptable to anybody — not the school system, the bus company or drivers who live in New London.”

“The spot is available now. We don’t know how long it will be available but the change in ownership will not change the agreement,” Passero said.

The city already has started marketing the Crystal Avenue property in hopes of bringing in a developer to not only clean it up and demolish the high-rises but also to provide a tax boost to the city.

In the meantime, Passero said the city and school district will continue to search for a permanent home for the buses in New London.

g.smith@theday.com

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