September 2018

New Highway Garage Planned

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From an artist rendering

The designer’s rendering of the new highway garage being planned on East Street South shows a building with its main garage doors at the rear. The windows under the sign face East Street just south of the prison driveway; the office entrance would face Harvey Lane across from Hood’s.

In an effort to clear the way for desired development on Ffyler Place, the Town has been contemplating other locations for the Town Highway Garage, whose location there is thought to deter potential developers. The old garage also is in need of considerable update and repair. A plan under way some months ago to build a new garage on Town property on South Street has now been replaced by a very different idea. The new plan was discussed and approved by the Selectmen at their June 20 meeting, by the Conservation Commission on July 24, and by the Planning & Zoning Commission on August 6. It has yet to be addressed by the Board of Finance. Town meeting approval would then be required.

In the new plan, the Town would take a long-term lease on a building to be built by the property owner of a long-vacant parcel in the East Street South industrial area: the abandoned Wicks lumberyard. The owner would demolish the old building, remove Wicks’ abandoned railroad siding, and build a new structure suitable for the Town’s highway garage needs, then lease it to the Town.

As described to the Selectman by Kevin Casey, project manager for owner F & G Recycling, the project would erect an efficient building with 11 bays, offices, and plenty of “cold storage” space, then lease it to the Town. The preliminary design of such a building has already been worked out cooperatively with Town officials. Casey has chosen a contractor who proposes to build it for $3.1 million. Reportedly, it would cost the Town more to build such a building, as State law requires government entities to pay defined “prevailing wages.”

The proposal requires the Town to commit to a 20-year lease starting at $6,000 per month, with option to renew. First Selectman Melissa Mack’s comments indicate that she feels the new proposal would be economically beneficial to the Town, overall.

Among details of the proposal, the highway garage would use 5 acres of the 6.2-acre Wicks property (considerably more than the highway garge’s 3.5 acres on Ffyler Place), while the remainder of the parcel at the north end would be available to the owner for other use. Access would be from both East Street and Harvey Lane.

In the Planning and Zoning meeting of August 6, other details were revealed. The new highway garage building would be 19,800 square feet. The Town refueling station would be included, and there would be space for a 6,000-sq. ft. salt shed. Answering concerns about the remoteness of the western part of town from the proposed garage, Highway Department Foreman Mark Cervione replied that snow plows would have access to salt stored at the Town Landfill. The separate lot north of the new highway garage would be used by the owner to store dumpsters. (At present, a large number of refuse containers are stored at the Wicks property, which seems to be the place where old containers go to die.)

Details of financial comparisons will undoubtedly be made more clear for the Finance Board’s consideration and for the eventual Town Meeting. Stay tuned.

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