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Middlebury plans for new DPW building

THE TOWN OF Middlebury is considering construction of a new Department of Public Works headquarters on land off Route 7 south. Pictured is the current, 30-year-old DPW building that Middlebury officials said is too small to house town equipment, 16 employees and day-to-day operations.

MIDDLEBURY — The past 10 years have yielded a flurry of major capital projects that have transformed Middlebury. They include the Cross Street Bridge, a new municipal building, a new recreation center, and a downtown rail tunnel that made its debut this past summer.
Now Middlebury is preparing for its next big project: A new Department of Public Works headquarters that would supplant the 30-year-old facility at 1020 Route 7 South.
While local officials have yet to set a specific price tag and timetable for a project that Middlebury DPW Planning Director Dan Werner said will certainly require a bond, it’s clear the DPW is next in line for a major upgrade.
“This building is 1990 vintage; we’ve outgrown it,” Werner said on Monday. “The vehicles are bigger. It’s time.”
The town hired Harris & Harris Consulting Inc. of Lincoln to study Middlebury DPW operations and potential space needs. The company’s initial scrutiny of the department dates back to 2015. At that time, Harris & Harris found:
•  The existing DPW headquarters is made up of 13,313 square feet, which is around 10,000 square feet less than the department actually requires for its operations.
Harris & Harris is suggesting a 25,000 square-foot building to house the department.
•  Current building deficiencies include code violations for handicapped accessibility, life safety, lack of oil/water separation systems, hazardous materials handling and storage, lack of attic storage fire separation; environmental concerns, pertaining to air quality and ventilation for garage and offices; lockers, lunch room, and toilet rooms that are “severely undersized for the number of employees on staff, and not handicapped accessible”; the lack of a sprinkler system; inadequate storage facilities; deteriorating masonry; and an “unsafe” traffic pattern within the building.
“Most people have to walk through the mechanics’ service bay areas as part of their daily movements in and out of the building,” Werner lamented.
•  The current 4.8-acre DPW facility is well located  geographically, but the site is characterized by steep ledge and is too small to accommodate a building expansion project. The property, according to the Harris & Harris report, is “severely encumbered” by legal rights of way held by two abutting property owners — Champlain Construction and a private residence — “making expansion difficult, and creating a non-securable facility.”
Harris & Harris is suggesting the town consider acquiring a roughly five-acre parcel located immediately north of the existing salt-sand facility site, on the east side of Route 7. That property is owned by the Foster family.
Use of the Foster property, according to Harris & Harris, would allow:
•  An opportunity to consolidate a new DPW headquarters building and the salt/sand facility on the same (or adjacent) property.
•  A “more reasonable and safe access” to the combined site via extension of existing roadways and utilities (Boardman Street/Wilson Road).
•  Elimination of frequent two-lane crossing through the high speed traffic of Route 7.
•  Greater efficiency of operations and supervision and security for the DPW campus.
Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay said the timing of a bond vote is still to be determined, though Town Meeting Day 2021 is out of the question. More planning is needed before the town can produce even a ballpark number for the project, she added.
That planning will unfold during the coming months.
“We’re in the process of evaluating, one more time, our needs, including building square-footage and outside square footage — to see if it will fit on that (Foster) property,” Werner said. “We’re not going to purchase anything until we see if it works.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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