One Vergennes infrastructure project wraps up; two more in the wings

VERGENNES — Work on the new $1.55 million Vergennes police station should begin in about two weeks, with another project, a new solar array at and near the city’s sewer treatment plant, soon to follow, according to City Manager Mel Hawley.
Meanwhile, ongoing work to solve a persistent drainage problem on Monkton Road should wrap up this week, Hawley said.
That project, not far from the west entrance to Vergennes Union High School, is fixing a problem that was unmasked by an engineering study: One side of the culvert is fed by a 24-inch pipe, and the outlet is an 18-inch pipe.
If it rains hard enough and long enough, Hawley said, the road’s drainage system backs up, causing problems for several area homeowners as well as flooding Monkton Road’s surface.
“In certain circumstances, the 18-inch pipe can’t handle it,” he said.
In the big picture, the drainage problem had to be solved before the road can be paved, possibly next year, Hawley said.
In the short term, he said, another deadline appears as if it will be met.
“We’ve got to get it done before school starts, too,” Hawley said.
Not long after school is in session, ground should be broken on the 4,611-square-foot police station on a North Main Street lot that was the home of Vergennes Auto Sales. Hawley said general contractor Bread Loaf Corp. would be setting up temporary headquarters there soon.
“We’ll tear that building down right after Labor Day,” Hawley said. He expects construction will start soon thereafter.
On Aug. 13 aldermen met to sign the $1.45 million bond that will fund the bulk of the station’s cost, after the city got what Hawley called “a favorable interest rate” of about 3.44 percent from the Merchants Bank. Aldermen plan to take $100,000 out of the city’s Tower Fund to fund the remaining expense.
Hawley said the station’s mechanical systems bids have already been received, and other bids are expected to arrive this week — meaning there is some suspense.
“I hope when we see the total that we’re on budget,” he said.
The new station will include on its secure “operations” side a sally port, into which a cruiser can drive and unload suspects for questioning and/or detention; two holding cells; two interview rooms; a booking room; a juvenile holding room; and evidence storage. The sally port can also be used to store a car being held as evidence.
The administration area will include a lobby, a patrol room with work space for a detective and sergeant, men’s and women’s locker rooms, a multi-purpose room that will be used for training and as a break room, an office for the chief, a witness interview room, a technology room, and several storage rooms, including one for required records and another for weapons.
Hawley this spring estimated the tax impact in the most costly year of a 20-year bond would be $59 per $100,000 of assessed value, a figure he said would gradually decline to around $42. That estimate includes money for building maintenance as well as bond payments.
The timetable for a solar array in and near the sewer plant is less certain; Hawley said that he planned to meet with project coordinator Encore Redevelopment sometime next  week to pin down a schedule for an installation that will be free to the city.
What has been established is that the array will produce up to 149.9 kilowatts per hour and about 200,000 kilowatt hours per year. That power will not go directly to the treatment plant, but instead will be measured as it goes into the electric grid, and its value will offset the city’s power costs.
 “At the end of the day, at the end of the year, it will be $4,120 in credit on our power bill,” Hawley said.
So far, the project has earned its Certificate of Public Good from the Public Service Board, back on July 18, and on July 31 Hawley on behalf of the city signed the financial agreement with project underwriter Green Lantern Capital.
 The array will total about an acre of solar panels, Hawley said, about half of which will be placed on the treatment plant lawn and half on a knoll north of the nearby Vergennes-Panton Water District office.
The arrays will not be as large as others in the area.
“It’s not like the one out on Route 7,” Hawley said.
Both sites are ideal, Hawley said, because they already offer required three-phase power and fencing.
Ideally, Hawley said, the arrays would already be in place, but there was a paperwork delay when the city’s name was substituted for Encore’s before the Public Service Board.
“The sun is out,” he said. “I wish it was up today.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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