October 21, 2014

New public works facility proposed

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By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

A proposed Williston Public Works facility could cost as much as $7.7 million, although the sale of the town’s existing garage and surrounding land could fetch upwards of $1 million to offset the replacement costs of what Public Works Director Bruce Hoar said is “at the end of its life.”

Acquired by the town in 1975, the existing highway and water/sewer facility is located off James Brown Drive near Williston’s northern border. Besides the geographic handicap of plow trucks and other public works vehicles relying solely on Vermont 2A to access the hub of Williston, Hoar noted that the current building is insufficient to house the growing demands of the town’s man and machine resources.

“Hopefully everyone goes along with this and we get this new facility,” Hoar said. “If we don’t, we’re still going to be looking at some other large expenses just to keep maintaining what we have over there now.”

Specifically, Hoar said the current facility has inadequate vehicle storage and lacks sufficient locker rooms for personnel. He said the salt storage shed is being held together by wire and a fire could prove disastrous in a building that lacks sprinklers.

The preferred location for the new public works building is a plot of land owned by IBM off Mountain View Road, northwest of Paya’s Auto. The facility would require the construction of a paved road to access the parcel, which is closer to the Winooski River than Mountain View Road.

At an estimated 34,000 square feet, the proposed facility is bigger than the current Williston police and fire stations, combined. It is three times the size of the current Williston Public Works garage.

Williston Selectboard Deputy Chairman Jeff Fehrs admitted to a degree of sticker shock when informed of the estimated $7.7 million cost on Monday at a meeting featuring construction consulting firm Weston & Sampson Inc.

“It is more than I expected,” Fehrs said.

Selectboard member Chris Roy, who served on an ad hoc public works task force in 2012, suggested that the facility upgrade is a pay now or pay later proposition.

“It’s really looking at this project not as a ‘Gee whiz, what new shiny thing can we have?’ but what do we need to be a good department for the next 50 years, given where Williston is now, because the facility we have now, at 30-plus years old certainly has outlived its usefulness,” Roy said.

Should the Selectboard decide to endorse the construction of a new public works facility in the coming weeks, the project would require subsequent approval by Williston voters on Town Meeting Day for the issuance of a municipal bond to fund the initiative. The measure would be contingent on the successful sale of the existing public works facility and purchase of the IBM-owned parcel.

POLICE BUDGET

In other fiscal year 2014 budget news, the Williston Police Department budget is projected to increase by 7 percent.

The proposed 7 percent increase includes a 5.1 percent aggregated wage raise for eligible department members and the creation of an additional police officer position.

Police Chief Todd Shepard said the additional position will allow for a reorganization of the department hierarchy through the creation of a rotational administrative sergeant. The proposed personnel shuffling would give detective supervision to the administrative sergeant position, as well as staff support for community involvement in neighborhoods and schools.

“I think that we should be more involved with the community, and I think our activity level is kind of keeping us away from that,” Shepard said.

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