BY THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
MEREDITH — Crumbling walls, inefficient heating, scattered facilities, and employee safety were some of the reasons cited for building a new public works building in Meredith.
Selectmen held a public information meeting about the $11 million proposal on Tuesday night, and all documents relating to the five-year feasibility review are posted on the town website.
Town Manager Phil Warren made the public presentation, saying a new facility would bring all of the operations under one roof and allow DPW employees to work on equipment indoors, rather than having to climb on slippery surfaces and risk a fall outside.
Selectman Nate Torr anticipated some of the likely questions about the project, asking Warren to explain what would happen to the old police station which currently serves as administrative quarters for the public works department. Warren said the town has no further use for the building, which would be listed as surplus and offered for sale.
“We have no plans to repurpose it for town use,” he said.
Torr asked what would happen to the existing operations center on Jenness Hill Road. Plans call for building the new facility across the street. Warren said the current operations building would be razed and the property would serve as open space and pit storage.
“Any expansion of the storage area would be outside of the wetlands area,” Warren said. “If the solid waste service changes, it would allow us space to do that.” He said there may be a future state mandate to handle food waste, similar to what Vermont now requires.
Torr also asked about the impact of taking land off the tax rolls if the town purchases the three parcels it anticipates using for the new facility. Warren said the taxable value of those properties is about $360,000, and that value would be lost.
The big question residents are likely to have is the tax impact of such a large project. Warren reviewed the town’s existing debt load, saying the conservation bond for Page Pond would be paid off in 2018; the Meredith Fire Station bond is expiring in 2020; the Plymouth Street-Route 3 bond in 2023; the Meredith Community Center in 2026; and the “bundled project” in 2029.
The DPW project would be a 20-year bond where the initial payment would be due in 2019, when other debt is decreasing.
Warren provided a tax impact chart covering the years through 2030 to give residents an idea of the tax impact of both the DPW project and the anticipated library renovations. He cautioned that those amounts are for illustration only, as budget growth, changes in valuation, and other factors also impact the tax rate.
The table shows the combined debt service rising to 80 cents on the tax rate in 2021 and gradually dropping in subsequent years.
While the total estimated project cost is $11,234,150, actual construction costs are estimated to $8,590,214. That includes demolition and site preparation at $187,200; site work at $1,201,500; building costs, $6,492,230; and a 9 percent “escalation” figure of $709,284.
Soft costs associated with the project — architectural and engineering expenses, site acquisition, hazardous materials removal, testing, etc., as well as furnishings — are estimated at $2,316,728. The project also includes a 3 percent contingency amount of $327,208 to cover unanticipated costs.
Warren said that, in addition to town roads, parks, and beaches, the public works department is responsible for maintaining all of the town vehicles and equipment, numbering 100 pieces in all. Much of the road equipment sits outside because it does not fit inside the bays at the operations center. A pole barn built of old utility poles and wood framing gives larger equipment very little protection from the weather. Workers needing the equipment during cold weather have to wait a half-hour for all of the hydraulics to warm up, even when block heaters keep the engine warm.
The operations building itself was built in 1965 with a steel frame designed to carry no snow load on the roof. Instead, heat rises in the uninsulated building to melt the snow off the roof — not an energy-efficient way to operate. Warren said ice dams have cracked the masonry walls of the building, it has rusted and bent metal siding, and it lacks proper exhaust ventilation.
Administrative offices are remote from the operations center and the proposed building would have space to bring it all together. A new building also would provide safer work space, improved vehicle storage, and an improved work flow.
The change also would serve to protect Hawkins Brook, something Mark Billings of the Meredith Conservation Commission addressed.
“This has been in our sights as long as I’ve been here,” he said. “Hawkins Brook is unprotected in this part of town.”
The existing operations building would be demolished and the site would be cleaned up, Warren said. There would be drainage and wastewater improvements to reduce the impact on Hawkins Brook and the surrounding wetlands.
The new facility would have fuel containment areas, oil and grease separators, trench drains, and better storage for supplies, he continued. The building would have full sprinkler coverage and mechanical systems to deal with carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.
“The goal,” said Warren, “is to provide a simple, durable, and cost-effective facility to meet community needs.”
A proposal for a new DPW building would enable the town of Meredith to get equipment inside, out of the weather. The current pole barn provides little protection from the elements. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)
The town of Meredith is looking to build a new public works building that would bring scattered operations under one roof and provide more storage for equipment. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)
About a dozen people, including members of the Meredith Public Works Facility Committee, attended a presentation on plans for a new DPW facility on Tuesday evening. (Tom Caldwell/Laconia Daily Sun)