MEREDITH — The need remains the same: the Meredith Department of Public Works’ operations building has crumbling walls, an inefficient heating system, and dangerous work conditions for employees, town officials say.
Last year, the town looked at an $11 million solution that would have brought all of the scattered public works facilities together in one location by purchasing additional land. The town did not move the project forward to the warrant, but is bringing a new proposal forward this year that would address the problems with the operations building.
Without a land purchase, the new $7.59 million proposal will meet the town’s needs now and in the future, Town Manager Phil Warren says.
The current operations building is a pre-engineered steel-framed facility with a corrugated metal roof. It was built in 1965. During a public hearing earlier this week, Warren called it “grossly energy-inefficient” because the heat has to be turned up to keep snow off the roof. Annual utility costs for the 7,000-square-foot building amount to $30,000, he said.
By contrast, the proposed building would have 12,839 square feet with estimated annual utility costs of $16,000.
There are a number of safety risks with the current facility, Warren said, making Meredith “the loss leader in slip-and-fall injuries” because there is no wash bay for the trucks. Instead, employees climb to the top of the vehicles to clean them after sand and salt operations, and the runoff from washing them may contain contaminants that reach nearby Hawkins Brook.
The current facility also lacks truck lifts, so workers making undercarriage repairs to the heavy trucks are working under vehicle jacks.
The town has been investigating solutions for the department since 2014 with a team led by HKT Architects, based in Charlestown, Massachusetts. The team has looked at alternate sites and various building proposals and configurations to address the needs. Warren said that, once voters approve a plan, the town would ask another architectural firm to review the plan before moving forward.
The current plan, known as Option E, would provide two drive-through maintenance bays with lifts, a drive-through wash bay, and a public parking area away from the operations. The current pole barn where vehicles are stored would be removed.
There is a provision to address what is known as the “yellow building” later, but Warren said there are no plans at this point.
“In a perfect world, we would put it in as part of today’s program, but that would be if the money wasn’t a concern,” he said.
The public hearing on the project was followed by a bond hearing, required because the cost exceeds $100,000. The selectmen followed that up by agreeing to bond the project, if voters approve it in March.
The “hard costs” — demolition and site prep, site work, building costs, and contingency — amount to $5,615,480. “Soft costs” which include the engineering and architectural work, come to $1,665,012, and the owner’s contingency — covering unanticipated issues that may arise — is $309,420.
Voters will decide whether to approve the project at Town Meeting on Wednesday, March 13. It requires two-thirds of voters to approve it in order to pass.