Starksboro to show off $1.65M town garage at open house

STARKSBORO — On May 19 at 5 a.m., the three-man Starksboro road crew raised their morning cups of coffee and celebrated a brand new day. On that Thursday, Road Foreman Tom Estey and crewmembers Paul Porter and Tony Porter began work out of the new town garage, completed on time and on budget.
“I still pinch myself every once in a while and go, ‘Yeah, it’s real,’” said Estey.
The 7,800-square-foot garage just north of the town’s Route 116 fire station is worth a gander (see open house information below).
It’s built, said architect Rick Burroughs of Black River Design, like a high-tech-steel post-and-beam barn — a fitting comparison for a 130-foot-by-60-foot building that houses the town’s 21st-century workhorses.
Giant U-shaped supports called “bents” hold up the structure. Steel posts more than 14 feet high run up the north wall. These connect to the 60-foot steel beams that span the ceiling expanse and meet up with the steel posts holding up the higher 28-foot front wall — tall enough so that the garage doors for five of the seven bays can raise straight up when fully open.
A continuous row of windows runs along the north and the south walls, letting in a flood of natural light. The soaring interior resembles a cathedral. But the red Starksboro town trucks and heavy equipment indicate it’s a garage, if an impressive one.
“This is probably the most expensive thing that Starksboro has ever done,” said Selectboard Chairperson Susan Jefferies.
Jefferies said that the selectboard began long-range planning early in 2014 and soon realized that a new town garage should be at the top of its to-do list.
“Of course the garage came up,” said Jefferies. “And we said, ‘Based on the shape of the garage, it shouldn’t be long-range. It should be now.’”
   ROAD FOREMAN TOM Estey and selectboard Chair Susan Jefferies walk through the new 7,800-square-foot Starksboro town garage, which at around $1.65 million is probably the most expensive thing the town has built.
Independent photo/Gaen Murphree 
The town formed a committee, with the goal of building a garage that could meet the town’s needs for the next 50 years.
Throughout Estey’s tenure as road foreman, the old garage, built in 1975, had been too small to hold all the town’s vehicles and equipment. To maneuver around the building, the road crew had to slide under trucks to get from one place to another, park vehicles with a two-inch clearance, and repair vehicles outside in driving rain or freezing snow due to lack of space.
The building lacked potable water and was built at the top of a steep incline, making for challenging access in slippery conditions.
And until about eight years ago when propane heat was put in, Estey routinely got up in the middle of the night to keep the wood-fired heating system going.
The committee came up with plans and a $1.69 million budget for the new building. In May 2015, Starksboro residents approved a $1.65 million bond, with the difference to be paid from a surplus budget.
“It was pretty easy to make the case that we really needed a new town garage,” said Jefferies. “And I’m glad that people in Starksboro paid attention and looked at the situation and agreed with us.”
The project might end up costing no more than the bond, said Jefferies, but added it’s too soon to give a final tally. Details still remain to be finished, including moving the town recycling center to the new location, and landscaping the site to mitigate the building’s effects on its nearest neighbor.
The garage boasts seven bays, enough to hold the town’s one-ton truck, two tandem dump trucks, loader, grader, tractor, roadside mower and hot-water pressure washer, with one bay left over for future needs.
The building also offers water, a storage mezzanine, a foreman’s office, a meeting room, and a kitchen large enough, Estey notes, so that Starksboro can now take its rightful turn hosting the monthly gathering of Addison County road foremen.
The bathroom alone, Estey said, is larger than the office/kitchen/break room in the old building.
The new building also offers an eyewash station, shower, and sensors for carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide.
The building also offers energy efficiency. Though twice the size of the old garage, Burroughs said that it will be cheaper to heat. The building is well insulated, airtight, and heated by a radiant floor slab. It has two heat pumps, which transfer heat out of even subzero temperatures, and offers an efficient air-exchange system. And the natural light will cut lighting costs.
“When the sun is shining you can turn the lights off in here and you don’t know you’ve turned the lights off,” said Estey.
And the town’s solar array provides enough power to cover the garage, the town office, town hall, Jerusalem Schoolhouse, and fire station. Starksboro sells the energy through net metering and receives energy credits.
A new salt and sand shed will also save time, said Jefferies.  Now that sand and salt will be stored inside their own 8,960-square-foot shed, the crew will no longer have to dig or chip off snow and ice to reach the product.
“It’s sort of funny because here we’ve built this great facility and the purpose of the facility is for the road crew to actually spend less time in it and more time out on the roads,” said Jefferies. “It will increase the efficiency of their work so they can spend more time actually out there working on the roads.”
The Starksboro town garage open house will be held Saturday, June 18, from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Refreshments will be provided.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].
   THE SALT SHED north of the new Starksboro town garage features a high roof and lots of natural light, just like the garage.
Independent photo/Gaen Murphree

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