As bond vote looms, Cavendish board takes 2nd look at Rt. 131 site for garage

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

A view of the proposed garage site on Rt 131 across from the wastewater treatment plant. All photos by Shawn Cunningham

As the clock ticks down toward Tuesday, Sept. 26 — when Cavendish voters will decide whether to borrow up to $400,000 to build a new town garage to replace the one that burned in February — the question of where to build it resurfaced at September’s Select Board meeting. But it looks like a decision on the site will not be made in time for the vote.

At the Sept. 11 meeting, Cavendish resident Rolf van Schaik asked the board not to rush into the decision on the site, calling the proper selection “an exceptional opportunity.”

Rolf van Schaik, right, and Stephen Plunkard make the case for looking at an alternate site for the new town garage.

Pointing out the advantages of using the site across from the wastewater plant on Rt. 131, where the town currently stores salt and sand, van Schaik said it would also take an unsightly building out of the center of town and make that property available for another use.

While board members noted that the decision to erect a prefabricated building on the site of the former garage was intended to get the job done before the winter set in, van Schaik asked the board to take a long view.

“Don’t let smaller incidentals distract from the main question: What is the best place for it?” said van Schaik. He went on to suggest several ways – including the rental of the former Black River Produce property on Rt. 103 – to shelter the town’s equipment and workers during the upcoming winter.

Agreeing with van Schaik, resident Stephen Plunkard called such projects “generational.”

“You’ll retire and it will still be here,” said Plunkard, who asked if a metal building dropped in the middle of the village was the best option. “If not, we can afford another week?”

“I’m of the mind that we already made a decision,” said board member Mike Ripley, noting that the site was considered and rejected.

Noting that the footprint and design won’t change and that a slab and other things would remain the same, McNamara said that another site survey would be have to be done, making it the only duplicate cost.

From left, George Timko, Rolf van Shaik, Bruce McEnaney and Brendan McNamara meet to evaluate the sand pit as a site for the new town garage

“Give us a week to look at it,” said McNamara, “A week won’t affect any project timelines.”

Former town manager Richard Svec noted that it would be a good idea to have a look at the other site so the board could be confident of its plan at the information meeting the night before the vote.

In the end, the board decided to have McNamara look at the Rt. 131 site and report back to the board.

On Thursday, Sept. 14, McNamara, McEnaney, van Shaik, Svec and board member George Timco met at the alternate site. They discussed the size and shape of the lot, looked at possible orientations and identified a number of access problems including having enough space for trucks to turn around and sight lines for pulling out onto Rt. 131 safely.

The group also talked about ways to make a new garage on the footprint of the old garage more aesthetically pleasing, including clapboard or vertical siding. Several of those attending took a field trip to Mount Holly to look at that town’s garage.

Board to hold special meeting

At a special meeting of the select board on Tuesday afternoon Sept. 19, board members and 13 residents discussed the pros and cons of each site. “Neither site is technically ideal,” said McNamara, “but either is doable without much effect on the time.” At the same time, Timko said there’s no guarantee and the sand pit site will take more work.

While the board understood the challenges of using the sand pit, members also recognized that the Main Street site has little room for expansion and that a flat roof metal building may have a negative effect on adjacent property values.

Using the sand pit site would mean moving most of the sand across Rt. 131 where it would be necessary to pave a way down to the sand to make it safe for road crews to drive to it in the winter.

McNamara said that estimates would bring the project in under the $400,000 budget either way.

Pieter van Schaik told the board that he had polled members of the Cavendish Historical Society, whose building is adjacent to the old garage site, to garner their views. He said that they would offer to buy a conservation easement on the old garage site for $30,000, with $7,000 already raised. He added that he expected to have $15,000 by the meeting on Monday.

The town has ordered borings to see how the underlying material would support the construction. The borings will take place at both sites on Friday and the Select Board may not have results before the Monday public meeting.

“Will there be a decision before Monday night?” asked Margo Caulfield.

“If we can,” said Timko.

Most of those attending didn’t seem upset by the lack of certainty.

“I am happy, as a taxpayer,”  said Svec, “that you are examining both sites. Not doing that would be folly.”

The information meeting about the garage plan and bond financing will be held at Cavendish Elementary School, 573 Main St., in Proctorsville at 7 p.m. on Monday Sept. 25. Voting on the bond will be held at Cavendish Elementary School from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 26.

The question at hand is whether to use bonds to borrow up to $400,000 to construct a garage. That amount will be reduced by the settlement from the Property and Casualty Insurance Fund, which is an arm of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns that insures municipal properties. To date, the negotiations on the final number have been difficult, according to the board.

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