Wilmington's former town garage recommended for fire/police relocation

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WILMINGTON — The former town highway garage site is the "most appealing option" for moving police and fire departments, says chairman of the police/fire facility committee Chuck Clerici.

"It's possible that when we get into the design process, if that's the decision, there may be space for (Deerfield Valley) Rescue," Clerici told the Selectboard on Wednesday. "That will obviously add a little to the cost of the project but it could also be a revenue stream subject to negotiation."

The committee, also made up of Fire Chief Ken March, Police Chief Joe Szarejko, Deerfield Valley Rescue Business Administrator Heidi Taylor, Selectboard member and firefighter Jake White, Dennis Heberlein and Jim Burke, took five months to look at locations for either a joint or separate facility due to the departments' current locations being in the flood zone. The stations were flooded during Tropical Storm Irene.

The committee's decision to recommend the 18 Beaver Street site came unanimously, although one-third of the 1.42 acres is located in the flood hazard zone.

"The site is most desirable because of its central location in town and the fact that it's already town-owned therefore requires no land acquisition costs," a report stated. "If the Selectboard agrees with the committee's recommendation, the recommended next step is to hire a design team via a competitive RFP (request for proposal) process. If the Selectboard opts to do so and wishes for the committee to continue, the charge will need to be amended."

Moving forward, Selectboard members said they would be looking at how to fund the project. Grants were looked at as a possible source.

White said it was about "pushing the right buttons at the right time" while board member Susie Haughwout mentioned that capital planning sessions were being scheduled to focus on goals and priorities for the community.

Two structures, Haynes Hall and the Allen Building, would ideally be relocated off the former town garage property. This would maximize the available space for site design, the report said.

"Another option, subject to discussion with a design team, may be to build up the south end of the site with a suitable retaining wall that would allow for construction above the flood hazard (zone)," the committee wrote. "The committee also recommends that the Selectboard consider negotiating the purchase of the southern end of the three adjoining lots on the northeast corner of the property. This would provide the access to the site that would allow for maximum use and access of the existing site."

Clerici said police were more flexible in moving from the downtown, where the former town garage is located. If the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center Deerfield Campus were to move from its location on Route 100 South — and there are talks between the hospital and a group hoping to turn the former Twin Valley High School into a community center — the site could serve as a "standalone" police facility.

"Fire particularly strongly prefers to be central in town," said Clerici. "It's critical to their volunteer firefighters."

He said his committee did not do any budgetary work but preliminary budget numbers could be found in a feasibility report on the facilities presented by Bread Loaf Corporation in December 2014.

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


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