Barre Town adds up costs of public works shop moveAugust 19,2013
By David Delcore
BARRE TOWN — Town officials are exploring a range of interim options in response to a company’s offer to lease or buy the building where most municipal vehicles are currently repaired and maintained.
Though the Select Board is still at least a couple of steps away from abandoning the public works shop on Pitman Road, members are exploring short-term alternatives to losing a facility that the town bought and renovated in 2002.
The Vermont branch of Tenco Industries has offered to buy the building from the town for something less than its assessed value, or to enter a long-term lease that would facilitate the equipment company’s move from North Main Street in Barre to the town’s industrial park.
Town officials are intrigued by the prospect of luring a stable central Vermont business to Wilson Industrial Park. They appear to favor a five-year lease that would give Tenco the option to buy the building at its current assessed value — $640,000 — or simply renew the lease for another five years.
However, before the board can agree to anything, members must develop a plan to at least temporarily relocate the vehicle maintenance and repair functions from the 12,000-square-foot shop.
Any short-term solution would almost certainly involve the town’s original public works garage on nearby Websterville Road — a building that would have to be modified or expanded to create space for a lift that would handle 10-wheel dump trucks and other large municipal vehicles.
A preliminary review of the old building, which is predominantly used to store, clean and fuel equipment, has indicated that would come at a cost.
According to Town Manager Carl Rogers, moving electrical conduit and other adjustments in the center portion of the old truck garage would cost roughly $31,000, though the modification would do little, if anything, to increase the future resale value of the building.
“It doesn’t seem like a very good use of money … to raise the ceiling in that one section,” he said.
Another option that hasn’t yet been fully fleshed out would involve the construction of a one-bay addition to the 1960s-era garage, which has been expanded at least once and was renovated after the new maintenance shop was created on Pitman Road. Though more expensive, Rogers said, the addition would at least increase the value of the building, which board members don’t see as a viable long-term home for the town’s public works operations.
“It wasn’t working really well for us when we moved out of it,” he said.
At a minimum, using the old garage would require buying or leasing an office trailer and as many as three storage units to replace space that would be lost. Rogers said those costs would be in addition to any physical improvements needed to create a functioning repair shop for municipal vehicles ranging from police cruisers and pickup trucks to large plow trucks and graders.
The board is still in the information-gathering stage, though Rogers said members are expected to discuss the issue further when they meet Aug. 27.
Rogers said the board isn’t up against any hard deadline but would like to decide as soon as possible given the possibility of luring Tenco to the industrial park.
“You just don’t get that many opportunities to bring in an established business that will probably be here for quite some time,” he said. “The timing isn’t great, but the end result would be a big benefit.”
Part of the problem with the timing has to do with the $775,000 bond issue that paid for the acquisition and conversion of what was once a granite manufacturing plant into a maintenance shop. That bond won’t be paid off for 10 years, though officials say revenue generated by the proposed lease would more than cover the annual bond payments.
Another consideration is that while officials had begun to think about the future potential for consolidating the town’s public works operations under a single roof, instead of the two currently being used, those conversations were far less immediate than they would probably need to be if Tenco were to move into the Pitman Road facility.
Board members have clearly said modifications to the old town garage would be an interim solution, and some have expressed a desire to accelerate plans to construct a new public works facility on town-owned land farther up Websterville Road across from the Wells-Lamson Quarry. Although the board has focused primarily on determining whether a suitable short-term alternative exists since the Tenco opportunity presented itself, members have acknowledged that finding a functional interim arrangement is only the first step. Assuming the board is willing to strike a deal with Tenco, planning for a new facility that would require voter-approved financing will begin.
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