December 25, 2013 - It appears the North Oakland Transportation Authority (NOTA) could be moving its entire operation from Oxford Village to Lake Orion.
Last week, the NOTA board voted 8-1 to move forward with pursuing a lease agreement with the Lake Orion school district for a former bus garage located on E. Jackson St. near Blanche Sims Elementary School.
"There is such an opportunity here for us to get into a great spot that we're chomping at the bit," said NOTA board member Eric Wilson. "We really want to move on this. We don't want to lose this opportunity."
NOTA is looking to move its administrative offices, dispatch center and fleet of 18 minibuses and vans to the site.
"(It's) been sitting empty now for a while," said NOTA Director Lynn Gustafson. "It's a wonderful facility . . . It's a large building. It has five bays and there's a downstairs and upstairs office area."
She noted the property is surrounded by fencing for security purposes and has abundant parking.
"It's a very nice facility," Gustafson said. "I've very excited about the possibilities. Much more room. Much more parking."
Gustafson indicated that NOTA would not be looking to rent the entire building, just the downstairs and upstairs office areas, plus the drive-through bay that used to serve as the bus washing area.
"It's a large bay," she said, noting three NOTA vehicles could probably fit inside it.
NOTA provides low-cost transportation to senior citizens, disabled individuals and low-income folks living in Oxford, Addison and Orion townships along with the villages of Oxford, Lake Orion and Leonard.
The authority currently operates out of a space it leases at 945 Glaspie St. It's been located there since 2010.
Gustafson explained NOTA began looking for a new location because its current landlord is no longer comfortable with the significant amount of parking NOTA's fleet requires. The landlord believes it's negatively impacting his other tenants.
NOTA is currently paying $1,000 per month in rent plus utilities. Gustafson said the same arrangement is being proposed to the Lake Orion School district.
"We don't have a lot of money to spend and most of the rents (for other lease spaces) are a lot more than what we can afford, so it was nice that this came about," she said.
Gustafson told this reporter that moving into the former bus garage would be a "win-win" for Lake Orion Schools and NOTA.
The school district would receive some additional revenue from an unused building, while NOTA would get a space that meets its needs.
If NOTA and Lake Orion Schools are able to reach an agreement, Gustafson said a few "very minor improvements" involving flooring, paint and windows must made to the facility. These would be paid for by the school district.
"There's currently no windows; they'd have to put some in," she said. The old windows were removed and replaced with cement blocks to prevent vandalism.
If a deal can be reached with the school district, Gustafson said NOTA would like to move in "as soon as possible."
Since NOTA's creation in 2001, the authority has moved around quite a bit, but it's always stayed in Oxford.
Its operations have been housed at a number of different locations including the Oxford Mills shopping center, the Oxford Veterans Memorial Civic Center and the campus of Crossroads for Youth.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.