Building a case for new DPW facility
Weston's Department of Public Works director, Robert Hoffman, and other town officials are raising their voices in favor of a new DPW building, costing an estimated $16 million, to replace a facility they say is a relic of a smaller town and a simpler time.
The town is hoping that with enough information, Town Meeting voters on May 12 will approve an appropriation for $950,000 to pay for the next stage of design for the new building. Special Town Meeting voters in November rejected a similar proposal attached to an $18 million proposal, amid complaints that the facility was too expansive and expensive.
The Board of Selectmen and the Permanent Building Committee say that the price is higher than other public buildings because it has to include features that wouldn't be required in a school or office. They've scheduled a public meeting for Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium to give residents a chance to learn more about the project. They've also put extensive information on the town's website, weston.org.
The most expensive components of the building would be features designed to prevent fires and explosions and to manage hazardous materials, as required by state and federal regulations. These include specialized heating, cooling, and ventilation systems, and explosion-proof vehicle maintenance bays, and account for an estimated $2.5 million of the total, according to the town's figures.
Architectural, engineering, and management costs, including temporary operating expenses to keep the department functioning during construction, account for $1.9 million. Another $1.8 million covers specially reinforced foundations and ceilings built to withstand heavy equipment, and an elevator to the second-floor office space. Construction plans also include $1.7 million for "site prep" - demolishing the existing building, installing drainage and pumping systems that comply with environmental laws, and cleaning or removing polluted soil.
The DPW's cinder-block building was put up in 1953, and can't satisfy the department's current needs, officials say. Workers who maintain the town's fleet of snowplows, dump trucks, and other vehicles - 111 in all - are choked by fumes due to inadequate ventilation. In less environmentally conscious decades, oil and chemicals were allowed to drain into the surrounding soil and woods. Female employees don't have their own bathrooms or locker rooms. During a major storm, as many as 24 employees eat their meals in a lunchroom built for eight.
Perhaps the most telling indicator of the building's obsolescence is how few of the department's employees fit inside. Of the 31 people working in the department, 12 work out of other sites.
Some opposition to the project has centered on the decision to build the facility with enough room to store the vehicles under cover. But Hoffman said trucks stored under cover don't take as long to warm up in the cold, saving fuel, and absorb less wear and tear from the elements. That in turn lowers the incidence of costly repairs. And, Hoffman says, it will also help morale for drivers.
"It's frustrating - when you come in, you got to dig your plow out, start it up, and then you're soaking wet and you realize you've got another 14 hours of plowing ahead of you," Hoffman said.
In trimming $2 million from the project's cost, Hoffman and the Permanent Building Committee made the garage 10,000 square feet smaller, and reduced the office space by 3,100 square feet, among other changes.
In all, the current design is about 25 percent smaller than the original, Hoffman said.
Correction: Due to an editing error, a story in Thursday's Globe West provided the wrong date for a meeting in Weston on plans for a new Department of Public Works facility. The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium.