Middlebury sets meetings to explain fire station project

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard last Tuesday formally approved a warning for a Sept. 27 vote on whether the town should spend $250,000 to further refine plans for a major makeover of the town’s two fire stations.
The Sept. 27 vote will be a precursor to a $4.875 million bond referendum to pay for replacement of the East Middlebury fire station and a substantial renovation and expansion of the department’s headquarters on Seymour Street.
Middlebury Fire Department Lt. Pat Shaw on Tuesday unveiled an informational brochure and a series of public meetings designed to inform voters about the project during the weeks leading up to the Sept. 27 vote.
The brochure, to be mass-mailed to taxpayers around a week prior to the referendum, details deficiencies within the two stations. Fire department officials report that the Seymour Street station features overhead doors that are too few and too small to properly accommodate trucks, no sprinkler system, inadequate access for disabled people, and not enough office space.
At the same time, fire officials said the East Middlebury station is in disrepair, is not energy efficient, is larger than needed, does not have a sprinkler system, and has overhead doors that are too small for apparatus.
If approved, the $4.875 million bond would pay for work to correct deficiencies within the Seymour Street station, as well as an 8,100-square-foot, four-bay addition. The bond would also pay for a new, smaller East Middlebury station that would have a sprinkler system and be able to store two trucks.
Selectboard members on Aug. 9 approved the framework of a potential agreement between the fire department and the Middlebury Community House for the potential purchase of some Community House property off Seymour Street that is needed to accommodate the station addition. Details of a purchase price continue to be under negotiation.
Shaw outlined a pre-vote education campaign that will include public meetings in East Middlebury on Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Sarah Partridge Library and in the Middlebury municipal gym on Sept. 19 at 7 p.m.
In addition, the fire department has scheduled concurrent open houses at the East Middlebury and Seymour Street stations from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Sept. 17.
In other action at the Aug. 9 meeting, the Middlebury selectboard endorsed a change in the town’s agreement with the Addison County Solid Waste Management District (ACSWMD) that will pave the way for the district’s Route 7 South transfer station to accept, effective Jan. 1, 2012, curbside recyclables collected by commercial haulers that have been licensed by the district.
Teresa Kuczynski, ACSWMD manager, explained that all but one of the current 32 licensed haulers are at a disadvantage under the current system, through which they either have to take recyclables to a competitor (Casella Waste Management) at a rate it establishes, or haul the material themselves to the Chittenden Solid Waste District material recovery facility in Burlington.
Kuczynski and ACSWMD board Chairman Timothy Wickland explained the transfer station could offer a drop-off option for all licensed commercial haulers — including those who provide the Middlebury curbside collection program — thereby creating what they believe will be an even playing field and greater efficiency.
They also noted the transfer station has a stationary compactor that could be dedicated to collecting, compacting and transporting curbside recyclables to markets in large transfer trailers. This could lead to lower transportation costs and an opportunity to shop around for the best price for recyclables.
“It makes sense and it will have little impact on our services there,” Wickland said.
He stressed, however, that there are no plans to open the transfer station to individuals wanting to drop off trash or curbside recyclables.
Separately, selectmen last Tuesday acknowledged complaints about heavy truck traffic on Quarry Road. Middlebury Town Manager Bill Finger said Quarry Road is being used as a shortcut for trucks hauling gravel from pits off Route 116 to and through Middlebury for construction. Dan Werner, Middlebury’s director of operations, has sent a letter to contractors informing them that police will be stepping up vigilance regarding the posted 24,000-pound weigh limits on Quarry Road and other town roads.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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