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ACTR moves into its new $4.2 million home

MIDDLEBURY — It was around 80 degrees, humid and drizzly in Middlebury on Monday, but it was just like Christmas at 297 Creek Road where the 31 full- and part-time workers at Addison County Transit Resources were opening a gift for them and the rest of the county: ACTR’s new, 12,500-square-foot headquarters.
“Over the last month, the experience has been somewhat surreal for most people here,” ACTR Director James Moulton said on Monday as he continued to unpack supplies in his new office.
“Every staff person here has a smile on their face,” he added. “There are a lot of buoyant emotions.”
And for good reason.
Just a few days ago, ACTR staff had been working elbow-to-elbow in 1,250 square feet of office space within Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects’ (HOPE) Community Services Building on Boardman Street. The space served ACTR well when it first formed 21 years ago to provide public transportation to Addison County residents. But the organization outgrew the location as its staff and bus fleet expanded over the years to meet increasing demands for service. Moulton and the ACTR board of directors began scanning the county for locations for a new headquarters, and found a spot on state-owned land off Creek Road.
Organizers worked with an architect to design a new, $4.2 million project that encompassed a 7,000-square-foot garage to house and service ACTR’s 18-vehicle fleet, and 5,500 square feet of office space.
After more than three years of planning and fundraising during the most challenging recession in the nation’s history, ACTR this week officially moved into the new digs, which epitomize how far the organization has traveled since its humble beginnings. The nonprofit’s regular routes include a Middlebury in-town shuttle, a Tri-Town Shuttle that links Bristol, Vergennes and Middlebury and a Snow Bowl Shuttle that goes through Ripton. ACTR collaborates with other agencies on buses from Middlebury to Rutland and Burlington. And last year, ACTR launched a new Route 116 service linking Bristol to Burlington.
ACTR provided more than 172,000 rides during fiscal year 2012.
BUILDING FEATURES
Moulton proudly showed off some of the ACTR headquarters’ main assets during a walk-through on Monday morning.
He began with the cavernous garage. It’s a facility capable of housing two-thirds of ACTR’s bus fleet at the one time, with ample parking space outside for other vehicles. The garage also provides an area for the buses — which range in size from 14- to 28-seaters — to be serviced. At the HOPE facility, ACTR buses had to be parked outdoors (spilling over onto on adjacent property) and were taken to various businesses for routine maintenance, officials noted.
The new facility also includes a bus wash to make sure the vehicles are presentable and cleaned of salt and other corrosive materials.
Meanwhile, the two-story administrative portion of the building provides ample office space for the 14 on-site staff, as well as 17 professional bus drivers and 35-40 volunteer drivers for the Dial-a-Ride program. Included in the mix with the offices are a conference room, kitchenette and waiting area for drivers. Moulton also noted an unfinished area within the building that could someday be converted into more office space.
And the building includes some extra amenities, thanks to the project coming in on time and under budget with substantial federal funding. Chief among the “extras” are some solar panels that will be installed on the roof to make the structure even more green than originally designed, Moulton said. The new headquarters is also endowed with a radiant floor heating system fueled with wood pellets, an abundance of windows for warmth and natural lighting, LED light fixtures activated by motion sensors, a roof-mounted rain collection system to supply at least 80 percent of the water needed to wash ACTR’s vehicles, plumbing designed to consume less water, and walls that contain 50 percent more insulation than required by the state’s building code.
Project savings is also providing for an electronic security system and the infrastructure for a back-up generator.
Propane will serve as the building’s back-up fuel. And that propane equipment could be easily converted to receive natural gas that could soon be delivered to Middlebury through a proposed pipeline.
Moulton isn’t the only ACTR employee happy to move into the new headquarters.
Gordon Marsh has worked for ACTR for 13 years. He currently serves as the organization’s director for finances and security.
“It’s very exciting,” Marsh said of the new building, which also carries some new responsibilities for the organization. Among them — grounds maintenance, security, parking and maintaining a good relationship with neighbors. Many of these things ACTR didn’t have to worry about as a tenant of the HOPE building.
“It’s nice to have the space,” said Marsh, who added his previous office was in a closet. “It’s not like it’s making life easier, but it’s making life more comfortable.”
Angela McCluskey has served as ACTR’s assistant finance manager since 2008. Like Marsh, McCluskey’s previous office was in a closet — except hers didn’t have a portal to look outdoors. As of Monday, she shares a comfortable office with Marsh.
“I now have a window!” McCluskey exclaimed with a big smile.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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