BARRE — It was a case of all hands on deck when the Granite City marked the move of the Agency of Transportation’s offices to Barre City Place.
The governor, state and local officials hailed the move during a celebration Wednesday at Barre Auditorium.
The move to Barre followed a fire that damaged the AOT’s offices at National Life Insurance Group’s Deane C. Davis Building in Montpelier in June 2018, and a decision by agency heads to consolidate the AOT’s office operations at Barre City Place. It also included a switch, with the Agency of Education offices at Barre City Place moving to National Life.
David Pelletier, a planning coordinator with AOT and coordinator of the move, welcomed AOT staff, adding: “They’re good, hard-working people in all sections and all levels of the agency.”
AOT secretary Joe Flynn noted it was exactly 18 months and two days since the fire at National Life.
“It’s been a long and challenging year and a half, but what a pleasure it is to walk into Barre City Place,” Flynn said, noting that the days of disjointed office locations for the AOT were over, except for a few employees still waiting to transfer from National Life in the spring.
He said AOT brought 100 jobs to Barre, and encouraged AOT employees to explore Barre’s many downtown restaurants, businesses and recreational facilities.
He added thanks to Buildings and General Services Commissioner Chris Cole, Cole’s agency and DEW Construction for coordinating the move.
A Barre native, Gov. Phil Scott said the AOT move to Barre would “significantly” benefit the community, adding that he favored state offices outside Montpelier.
He said the move would help the city prosper in the face of tough competition in the granite industry from overseas exporters, and help bolster the city’s “sense of pride” that was once rooted in its immigrant populations that made the city a vibrant community.
“I think with your presence, we can get some of that back,” Scott said. “The City of Barre is genuinely grateful that you are here.”
Mayor Lucas Herring credited city officials, including City Manager Steve Mackenzie and Facilities Manager Jeff Bergeron for coordinating the celebration.
Cole, a former AOT employee, noted that Buildings and General Services tries to locate state offices in downtowns to support local economies and build ties between communities and the state.
“The AOT is the right size to fully utilize Barre City Place,” Cole said, reminding guests that AOT assisted Barre with its “Big Dig” North Main Street redevelopment several years ago.
DEW CFO Chris Francis noted that the AOT move was made possible with a tax stabilization agreement with the city and state loans. Full utilization of the building would allow DEW to refinance its investment in the building, which would become a tax benefit to the city in the future.
There were more words of support from Barre Area Development Corporation Executive Director Joe Schwartz and Barre Partnership Executive Director Tracie Lewis as business promoters in Barre, as well as Mackenzie on behalf of the city.
Speaking after the event, Heidi Quenneville, of North Fayston, an AOT audit specialist, said she welcomed the change of location for the AOT offices and the chance to explore Barre’s offerings.
“I think it will be a good chance to explore what Barre has to offer,” Quennville said. “I thought it was really great to bring the department together and welcome us to the city and meet people that I wouldn’t otherwise have met.”
Timothy Bradshaw, of Burlington, who works in the AOT’s Public Transit section, said he was a frequent rider to work on the new Barre LINK bus from Burlington.
Bradshaw said he enjoyed the slideshow of Barre’s many attractions, had done the Barre Walking Tour and liked the convenience of the many business offerings in downtown Barre.
“They’ve revitalized the area tremendously,” he added.
Joe Castellano, of Montpelier, who is an AOT right of way appraiser, said he liked the new location and office cubicles in the building, and Barre’s downtown businesses.
Guests were treated to refreshments by Delicate Decadence in Barre and a tote bag of goodies from local businesses.
They were also treated to a preview of a new branding and growth initiative called Barre Rock Solid that will mark its launch at the Barre Opera House next Wednesday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m.