Wednesday February 16, 2011

WILMINGTON -- Voters got a first-hand look at what the highway workers deal with when they need to retrieve their vehicles from the town garage and why they said they need a new one at an informational meeting Tuesday.

Prior to the two-hour meeting, residents took tours of the tight quarter facility which houses two 10-wheel plow trucks called tandems, three six-wheel dump truck-style plows and two F-550 plow trucks.

Just three weeks ago, Bill Hunt, the town’s road supervisor, injured his head on one of the wing edges of the larger plow trucks because he couldn’t fit through the space between the vehicles, he said.

"It’s tight in here," Hunt said. "If we need to get to a truck that isn’t parked right next to the door, we usually have to move two or three others."

Last month, the Selectboard approved a bond vote to be put on the Town Meeting ballot for $340,000 to construct a new town garage.

The current 6,280 square foot building, built in 1963, which shares a parking lot with the Twin Valley High School, would be replaced with a new 8,976 square-foot garage and a 55 foot by 25 foot salt shed located on town-owned property at 21 Haystack Road.

Each truck would get its own door and parking space to allow for easier, safer access and the ability to perform maintenance, Hunt said.


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After the open house, about 20 people attended the information meeting led by the Selectboard, Chuck Clerici, chairman of the garage committee and the architect and contractors for the project.

Jeff Ingram of Ingram Construction Inc., of Swanzey, N.H., which was selected to build the garage, said because of the economy, costs for materials are lower.

"It’s a very good market to build something," Ingram said.

Although the project budget is proposed for $963,483, only $340,000 is needed because of prior investments and a surplus found in last year’s budget which was allocated to the garage fund, Selectboard member Jim Burke said.

Former Town Manager Robert Grinold said he agreed with the project but wasn’t sure it was the right design.

"There’s no question about it, we need a new town garage," Grinold said. The two problems he had were about safety and heating. "If a fire broke out in the new garage it would cause us to lose the entire fleet. There’s no fire walls," he said.

Clerici responded, saying, "There were things we had to give up in this process, which meant we couldn’t have every bell and whistle."

He added that fire walls or another form of protection could be added to the building at a later date but to do so now could jeopardize the project.

Doug Wheeler, a road foreman, said the project must pass.

"I’m sick of crawling around in the water and dirt," Wheeler said. "The design is straightforward and to the point."

If the bond vote passes during Town Meeting, March 1, construction could begin in late March and be finished before December, Clerici said.

Josh Stilts can be reached at jstilts@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.