Jamaica Town Garage's future is up to voters


JAMAICA >> Residents are wondering if any other options could be explored as they prepare to vote on whether to take out a bond to replace Town Garage.

"There's a lot of ducks that are swimming around in a pond aimlessly, because I don't think you have enough information that's being put together to make a reasonable decision," said resident Michael Abrams.

But officials on Tuesday told residents this was the best choice going forward if they wanted to bring the building up to snuff for safety and storage purposes.

"This is their office over here. They're constantly smelling the fumes. You can smell them now," Selectboard Chairwoman Lexa Clark said during a site visit for which more than a dozen people showed up. "I already have a headache standing here. It's really not a healthy environment for anybody to work here."

At annual Town Meeting on March 1, residents will decide if a bond in an amount not to exceed $750,000 should be used to replace the garage with a facility approximately twice its size.

Currently, Town Garage is about 6,000 square feet. And Winhall's new garage, which replaced the one that burned down in January 2014, is being looked at as a model.

Town Road Commissioner Keith Hazard said trucks were much smaller when Jamaica's garage was constructed back in the 1970s. Now vehicles and equipment are being stored out in the snow, causing crew members to "chip them out" when frozen.

"Everything's gotten bigger and we have more trucks than we used to have so it's gotten pretty crowded. It's really not that efficient and it's really not that warm," Hazard said. "For our part, it's a room issue. There just isn't enough room to store the stuff. I just think it's kind of sad. You got a half million dollars worth of equipment outside."

The facility should have a station or space for propane tanks to be chained to a wall so "they don't get knocked over and blow things up," Hazard said, referring to information obtained from an insurance company representative. A welder and air compressor are continuously taken in and out of outlets as the number of outlets are limited.

Selectboard member Lou Bruso called attention to insulation: the side walls are about an inch thick, the windows are approximately a quarter inch piece of plastic and the roof likely has the same thickness as the walls. In the winter, the furnace is always on and still the bathroom freezes up.

The new facility needs to go within the same footprint or else it would be below the floodplain, Bruso said when asked whether Town Garage could stay and a new building go up next to it. Six bays, three heating zones, a utility room and an office are being proposed in preliminary talks on the project.

Architects David Cotton and Paul Belaski sat in on a discussion at Town Office following the site visit. They run the Newfane-based Cotton-Belaski Architectural Services.

To know the exact cost, Bruso said, would require putting the project out to bid. Cotton's previous jobs, town garages in Winhall and Wilmington, could help guide Jamaica's blueprints.

Winhall's garage included a dry sprinkler system, not currently on the minds of Jamaica officials. The size is similar to what they want.

"If it was identical to this, I don't think it's going to be $750,000," said Cotton.

Concerns about cost from resident Pat Meulemans, former town clerk, involved getting a well and septic system set up. Permitting also would be needed for those components.

"It seems like if you leapfrogged you'd be in a better position because there would be new technology, you'd have room to grow and you'd spend all this money on one building," said Meulemans, wondering if another location could host a new facility. "It seems to me, to put a building on a space that you cannot grow at all in isn't looking towards the future."

With a home close to the site, Fred Heger worried about aesthetics and encouraged the board not to go for a metal building.

"It just looks rusty and awful. It looks like a temporary shed," he said. "I think, if it is built, it should be made out of materials that have a very long life."

Heger, also thinking of how the sale of his house might go in the future, said he does not want the new garage to be "something people just don't want to look at and that's the case now."

Board members said they would consider engaging the public in the planning process.

If the article passes, Jamaica will go to a bond bank along with other Vermont municipalities. The bond would be issued in August. But the first principal payment won't be due until a year later, said Bruso.

A 20-year bond would cost taxpayers slightly more each year than a 25-year bond. For homes assessed at $100,000, residents would be looking at approximately $20.90 extra in their tax bill for fiscal year 2018. That number would go down each year, reaching about $13.86 in FY37. A 25-year bond would cost less each year; about $18.76 extra in FY18 and $11.10 in FY42 for $100,000 assessments. But it would be cost more in the long run due to interest.

"Once we get permission from the citizens to start looking at this in depth, we can then start spending some money, which we cannot do right now," Selectboard member Paul Fraser said. "If the bids come in at a manner that we could not stomach, it stops."

Before the meeting closed, resident and former board member Stewart Barker said, "It's time to do something."

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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