By ALVIN REINER
---- — WESTPORT — More than 50 citizens turned out to hear Westport's latest plans and costs for construction of a Department of Public Works garage/fire station and renovation of Town Hall.
Since bonding referendums were defeated in June 2010 and July 2011, the town continues to review options while under mandate to repair or replace the structures.
Westport officials have been reviewing options that would provide required safety features, meet federal and state mandates, be economically feasible and win voter approval.
Two committees have been meeting: one for possible construction of a DPW and Fire Department structure on Route 22, north of the hamlet, and the other for the renovation of the Town Hall.
'VERY, VERY NEEDY'
“We’re hoping to have a conversation with you folks to find the best way to go forward," Andrea K. Murray of Vermont Integrated Architecture of Middlebury, Vt., said at the recent meeting.
"We have been working one and a half years with feasibility studies. We have looked at existing buildings and found them to be very, very needy.”
This sentiment was echoed by Westport Town Councilor Daniel McCormick, who said, “We want to gather information so that when it comes time to decide, you will be well informed.”
Westport DPW Superintendent Dennis Westover said his goal is a safe, clean working environment.
"I don’t think there are any bells and whistles in this proposed building," he said. "These are mandates by state law. I don’t want any misconceptions, like we had the last time.”
Representing the Westport Volunteer Fire Department, Jim Rule said they need to keep facilities up to date.
"The Fire Department needs a place to work safely and have a place for training. It’s (the proposed building) pretty much what we need. There’s nothing fancy," he said.
"We are taxpayers. We have tried to come up with the most cost-effective plan that we can.”
TOWN HALL PLANS
Bill Johnston of the Town Hall Committee spoke of the renovation of the 100-year-old structure.
“We plan to keep the Town Hall in the village, as that’s what the people seem to want. It’s an important way Westport presents itself.”
Plans would deal with energy efficiency, handicap accessibility and wear and tear.
“The building is basically sound but very energy inefficient,” Johnston said.
Improvements would include adding a cement slab on the bottom level, two interior staircases and moving the offices to street level.
An estimated cost of $1.4 million would be partially covered by grants, such as those for historic preservation that would bring state reimbursement of $3 for every dollar spent.
Solar energy could also be an option.
Peter Gibbs of Creative Engineering Ventures of Burlington has been involved in assessing the 7-acre site where the DPW shed is located now and the proposed DPW/fire station site.
While the location has municipal water, it does not have town sewage, and the 4,000 feet of piping to accomplish that is probably cost prohibitive, he said.
He pointed out that stormwater drainage issues exist and that the ledge outcropping would limit usable acreage on the land.
“The site costs are high relative to building costs,” said Gibbs, who estimated there may be as much as 2,000 square yards of ledge removal.
Murray presented the latest plans for the 16,400-square-foot pre-engineered metal structure, which would include six DPW truck bays and seven emergency-vehicle bays.
It would have shared decontamination and laundry facilities, as well as a training room. Due to the pitched roof in the center, there would be space to practice rope rescues and similar exercises.
Twenty parking spaces in front and eight in the rear of the building are planned.
The $4,024,000 proposed cost includes site preparation, though with added expenditures for professional fees, testing, clerk of the works and insurance, the total amount has been estimated at $4,374,877.
“I feel good about these numbers, and there is perhaps some room to wiggle," Murray said. "There are still some conversations to be had.”
Officials said the actual costs to Westport taxpayers would be most likely lower, in which case the bonding would be re-negotiated.
The feedback from those in attendance seemed to be positive.
Nancy Decker elicited a chuckle when she said: “We’re in trouble right now. It needs to be done. There is nothing that is entirely palatable.”
Molly Kasriels drew applause when she spoke in favor of the proposals.
“I guess you can call me a Pollyanna. You can’t literally put uniforms on in the current (fire) building. I am concerned with the safety of the men and women who keep us safe.”
A current timeline includes a referendum vote in late spring, and, if approved, construction and renovations to begin in the fall.
Email Alvin Reiner at: email@example.com.
TO LEARN MORE
Westport officials are urging the public to check the town's website at westportny.net or call the Town Hall at 962-4419 for the dates of the next community and committee meetings. Plans may also be viewed at those locations.