Ferrisburgh voters asked to support $850K bond for town garage

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh residents on Dec. 10 will be asked to approve an $850,000 bond to pay for the lion’s share of a proposed $1.05 million, 5,940-square-foot, six-bay highway department garage.
Balloting will be held on the same day as residents of Ferrisburgh and the other Addison Northwest Supervisory Union towns will weigh in on a proposed $2.88 million bond to pay for repairs and upgrades to Vergennes Union High School, most notably its auditorium, kitchen and cafeteria.
Ferrisburgh’s new highway facility, modeled after Bridport’s town garage, would be built on the same lot as the current highway garage, across Little Chicago Road from Ferrisburgh Central School.
The current Ferrisburgh garage, built in about 1950 and expanded in the 1970s and 1990s, would continue to serve the department during construction and then be demolished when the new building is complete, town officials said.
Payments on the bond would amount to roughly $45,000 a year for the first 10 years and then $40,000 a year for the second decade of a 20-year note, according to Ferrisburgh assistant treasurer Pam Cousino. In the first 10 years that extra amount would add about 0.9 cents to Ferrisburgh’s tax rate, Cousino said, or $27 a year for a $300,000 home during the life of the bond.
But Cousino also said two bonds are set to expire before payments on the proposed garage bond would kick in. One set of payments costs $35,000 a year and is funding Ferrisburgh’s new town offices, and the other costs $30,000 annually and pays for a truck. Payments on those bonds have added about $1.27 to the town’s tax rate, she said.
Road Foreman John Bull said his department has needed the new garage for several years, but town officials have waited until the other bonds are ending to minimize the tax impact on residents.
“That’s always been our long-term plan. We try to manage these items in when we retire another bond,” Bull said.
Town Clerk Chet Hawkins said the $155,000 to bridge the gap from the $850,000 bond to the $1.05 million building comes from money set aside in capital fund line items in the highway department budget and grant funds that Bull has obtained in recent years.
“John (Bull) is extremely frugal and knows how to apply for grants,” Hawkins said.
The proposed building includes 5,100 square feet of space with six doors for truck, equipment and parts storage, and 840 square feet of attached office space with an office, bathroom, small kitchen area and a lobby/meeting room.
The building — which unlike the old one would be insulated to modern levels — would be sited behind and to the west of the existing facility, near the middle of the lot. An existing recently upgraded salt shed and pole barn would remain.
Details of the plan are available at the town clerk’s office, and Bull will host an open house at the highway department (Saturday, Dec. 7, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at 167 Little Chicago Road) to explain the plans and go over what he calls the shortcomings of the existing garage.
“It’s the only solution to the problem,” Bull said of the new building.
He cited a long list of issues, including the lack of room to properly maintain and store trucks and equipment, something he said costs money in the long run.
Ferrisburgh maintains about 83 miles of road and the department’s most recent budget was about $834,000. The town owns three tandem dump trucks, two single-axle dump trucks, two pickups, an all-wheel-drive grader, a backhoe, a loader, a tractor and an excavator.
That equipment means Ferrisburgh can not only take care of plowing and summer road maintenance, but also save money by taking on construction projects instead of hiring contractors, Bull said.
But there is no room now to store the equipment out of the elements, and savings are being eaten away, he said.
“To be able to maintain it so we can get longer life out of it we need a building,” Bull said.
Already, he said, the department’s employees have worked hard to keep the town’s vehicles — a new fully equipped dump truck costs about $250,000 — and other equipment useful as long as possible.
“Since I’ve taken over we’ve doubled the time we keep a truck,” Bull said, citing six- and 12-year terms, respectively. “We’re getting long service life … and maintenance is the key issue there.”
But even before considering finances, the current facility is so jammed Bull said highway workers have to climb over equipment to perform maintenance, and he constantly worries about injury.
Asked about the critical needs the project would address, money was not his first answer.
“Right on top of the list is employee safety,” Bull said.
Heating the existing building does waste funds, though, he said, likening it to “a wind tunnel.” It cost $6,200 to keep the facility warm last winter, according to the highway department building committee’s mission statement on the town’s website.
Despite that energy waste, that same mission statement claims that Ferrisburgh’s highway department is more efficient than its neighbors, operating at a cost per mile of $10,964.72 compared to an average of $19,224.73 for “surrounding communities,” while at the same time Ferrisburgh traffic has increased by 40 percent in the past decade.
Bull hopes residents will back the plan, and speak to him about the issues.
“I think its just investing in the future of Ferrisburgh … We’ve needed it for a number of years,” Bull said. “I would love to see them to come to the open house if they have any questions.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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