MEREDITH — After hearing from the Public Works Facility Workgroup at a workshop last week, the Board of Selectmen agreed to seek $100,000 from Town Meeting in March to fund a feasibility study for the development of a new facility.
The working group consists of Town Manager Phil Warren, Director of Public Works Mike Faller, Superintendent of the Water and Sewer Department Dan Leonard, Director of Community Development John Edgar and Selectman Peter Brothers.
The existing facility, built in 1965 at a cost of $55,000, sits on between six and seven acres of a 29-acre lot between Daniel Webster Highway and Jenness Hill Road, which also houses the Police Department and a large landfill. The department's offices are about a mile away, in the former Police Station, on a 16-acre lot on Daniel Webster Highway.
Introducing a slide show of the facility, Warren remarked "I would definitely say that the building has exceeded its useful life. It's time for us to give it a new look."
The building, Warren explained, is failing from age. Cinder blocks are deteriorating, separating and moving. Air and vapors are entering the building. The septic system has likely neared the end of its lifespan. The bay where mechanics work and area where vehicles are washed lack proper drainage to divert waste-water from Hawkins Brook, which crosses the lot between the facility and the police station.
The building is not adequately insulated or heated. Warren said that loss of heat through the roof leaves the temperature inside at "50 degrees, if we're lucky." Moreover, the roof leaks. Faller said that employees returned to work after a rainy weekend to find rusted tools, all of which had to be cleaned and oiled. The electrical system is inadequate and outmoded. Apart from its structural flaws and mechanical shortcomings, the building lacks appropriate restrooms and locker rooms for employees and is too small to provide sufficient storage space and accommodate larger vehicles and equipment, including the Fire Department's new ladder truck. The only lift, which is sized for cars, is 16 years old.
Energy costs throughout the facility are the highest per square foot among the municipal buildings. The garage, recycling shed and transfer station are heated with waste-oil at an aggregate cost approaching $30,000 per year. In addition, vehicles stored in the "pole barn," a large shed supported by utility poles, must be warmed with 1,500 watt heaters then run for 45 minutes to warm the hydraulic systems that operate the plows, sanders and dump beds. The fueling station must be replaced by 2015 to comply with higher state and federal standards.
Faller said that he would prefer to consolidate the department, both administration and operations, at one site. "I'd like to get everyone under one roof," he said. But, he described the site as "very tight." He said that the feasibility study will indicate what can be done on the site.
Edgar said that the public works facility has been on the horizon for some time. The working group has met with with the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Committee, Energy Committee and Conservation Commission and intends to begin reaching out to the general public.
Warren told the board that "this is something we are going to need some outside help with," explaining that a feasibility study would provide the conceptual framework required to proceed with design and engineering. He emphasized that cost analysis should be based on the life-cycle of the facility, not simply its initial cost. He said that Town Meeting would be asked to fund the feasibility study in March 2014 in anticipation of appropriating construction funds a year later.