Ferrisbugh garage vote on tap

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh residents on Tuesday will be asked not only to weigh in on a proposed $2.88 million Vergennes Union High School bond (see story, Page 1A), but also to approve an $850,000 bond to pay for most of a proposed $1.05 million, 5,940-square-foot, six-bay Ferrisburgh highway department garage.
That 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 torn down when the new building is complete.
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 town officials. In the first 10 years that extra amount would add about 0.9 cent to Ferrisburgh’s tax rate, or $27 a year for a $300,000 home.
But officials 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 a year to the town tax rate.
Road Foreman John Bull said his department has needed the new garage for several years, but town officials waited to propose this bonds until the other bonds end to minimize the tax impact on residents.
Officials said the $155,000 needed to bridge the gap from the $850,000 bond to the $1.05 million building will come from money in capital fund line items in the highway department budget and grants.
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 on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. to explain the plans and go over what he calls the shortcomings of the existing garage.
Those shortcomings, he said, include lack of room to properly maintain and store trucks and equipment, something he said costs money in the long run.
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.
Bull also said the current facility is so jammed that highway workers have to climb over equipment to perform maintenance, and he worries about employee safety issues. 
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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