DPW says it needs new facility

Town contracts with architect, engineering firm to evaluate current building

BRATTLEBORO — The town's Department of Public Works needs a new home.

With recently approved outside consulting help, the first step in the process will be to figure out what the DPW needs in a facility, what it has, and what it likely will need in the future.

The current facility on Fairground Road, built in 1951, houses the department's offices, workshops, and garage space for its many vehicles - except for the ones that don't fit.

“The building is substandard,” said DPW Director Steve Barrett, who added, “we can't get the larger equipment” into the facility.

Construction will not start any time soon, and no budget for a new building has been approved.

Firms will assess current, future needs

Barrett received unanimous Selectboard approval on Dec. 4 to hire Banwell Architects and SVE Associates to provide a joint review of the DPW's building, assess the department's current and future needs in their facility, and deliver a report of their recommendations.

The $20,200 fee will be evenly split between the Utilities Fund and the General Fund.

After issuing a request for proposals, the DPW received three bids. The joint bid submitted by Banwell and SVE was substantially lower than the other two.

Barrett confirmed with the Selectboard that Banwell and SVE's proposal met all of the requirements. He added Horton had worked with the firms many times in the past and “he is very confident in their abilities to proceed with this report.”

The DPW had hired Steve Horton, of Steve Horton Construction Consulting Services, to help develop the scope of the project, including selecting the architectural and engineering firms and reviewing their reports.

Horton worked with the town in a similar capacity on the police and fire facilities projects.

Potential future use

Barrett noted that although the DPW's facility is unsuitable for the department's needs, the building may still have some use to the town, and the engineers can determine this in their study.

They will also evaluate the building's boilers and other equipment for use in the future facility.

Banwell and SVE will begin work this winter, with some possible follow-up studies in the spring and summer, which is all included in the bid.

The funding for the report is “already there,” said Barrett, so the DPW won't need to request any more for the study “unless there's something urgent.”

“There isn't a real big push for this,” said Barrett, who said in a previous Selectboard meeting that the building is safe in its present condition. “We have time to plan out” the next steps, he said.

The first step

Selectboard Chair Kate O'Connor asked Town Manager Peter B. Elwell if his long-term capital plans include money for a new DPW facility.

The short answer is yes.

Elwell explained that the Banwell and SVE reports is consistent with his long-term goals for the Selectboard and the town.

“For years, we've talked about the need to get good studies done to help us make those long-term decisions about how to proceed with the public works facility, and this is the first step,” Elwell said.

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