SHAFTSBURY >> The Shaftsbury Select Board has announced that they do not intend to have an article regarding a new garage on the Town Meeting Day ballot, but could aim for the November presidential election instead.
"There's several elections during this year," said town administrator David Kiernan, "with Town Meeting, the state primary, and Presidential Election Day. We can have a ballot on any of those days, for this. So, we're not compressed into this really tight time schedule to get all these things decided by Feb. 1, because they'd have to be warned by then. Looking down the road toward the presidential election, we could have a pretty secure package and very high voter turnout."
Board chairman Tim Scoggins agreed with Kiernan. "We're not going to rush this past voters," he said. Board member Art Whitman said the town should take the time to meet with residents and present their plans, and hear the residents concerns before moving forward too quickly.
"Let's be open about it, let's take our time," Whitman said. Scoggins estimated that, with the lower projected cost of this new garage, and the money the town has been putting in the garage reserve fund since last year, the total amount that will need to be borrowed should be around $500,000, about one-third of the amount that was proposed for the initial garage bond vote, which was shot down by the townspeople in March of 2013.
The board has been investigating a garage that was recently installed by Morton Buildings in Rupert. "There's definitely advantages. It's kind of an off-the-shelf building," said Kiernan, "It fits the needs, and we don't get into large architectural and engineering costs. They're rolled into Morton's price structure." Kiernan said he is still engaged in conversations with Rupert about the process they went through and what they paid, and described the conversations as "the first step." Kiernan and the road crew have already toured the Rupert garage, and they agreed it fit all of their needs.
Kiernan did warn the board that Morton was cautious about being part of a bidding process. As all of their garages are pre-designed, a competitor could look at their previous work and underbid them, essentially taking advantage of all the engineering and architecture work that Morton has already done. Scoggins suggested that, if the discussions with Morton progress to the point where they look like a good fit to build the garage, that the board award them the contract without a bidding process.
"We've seen the building, we have a lot of comfort with it," said Scoggins, "We know that it just got built right up the road. There's a lot of uncertainty if we go with someone else, we'll have to do a lot more homework." Scoggins said the town's purchasing policy requires that any project over $10,000 go out to bid, but, he said, "The purchasing policy is not law, it is suggestions for best practice. In this case, I think we are well-served by taking advantage of the homework that Rupert has done. They did say they looked at a number of different contractors, and a number of different buildings, and they went with this one. They said it was not the cheapest one, but they felt it was the best value. Compared to how we went through this process before, when we were looking at architects and engineers and all that, here's a building that, essentially off the shelf, will serve our needs, and will likely come in quite a bit below what a fully engineered building would do." Shaftsbury's purchasing policy does appear to allow the board to waive the bidding process if it is in the best interest of the town.
Whitman said he didn't disapprove of Scoggins' plan, so long as local contractors were used for any other work on the project, such as electrical and heating. The rest of the board agreed with the idea. Board member Ken Harrington praised the Rupert building, and Morton, whom he called, "a good brand name," which has, "been around for years and years." Kiernan said he would try to schedule visit by a Morton representative for the board's January meeting.
Scoggins also reported on the quality of the groundwater at the landfill site, where the board hopes to eventually build the new garage. The landfill, which is unlined, was closed in about 1990. Since that time, said Scoggins, the state has been continuously monitoring the groundwater for contamination. In 2010, when the site started to be discussed as a garage possibility, an engineer from the state reported to the town that the groundwater in the direction that the plume from the landfill would have been expected to move actually exceeded state and federal drinking water standards. "Furthermore," he said, "We had the engineer on the project verify with the state, if the water stopped being good, it would still be good enough for the industrial process that we want to do there, which largely requires washing trucks and flushing toilets." He said the most recent reports on the water quality, taken by the state in the fall, would be available soon.
The board also gave an update on their search for an alternate for the town's development review board. Previous alternate Michael Day was elevated to a full member when David Mance resigned his seat to join the planning commission earlier this year. Scoggins said the only application had been from former select board member Carl Korman. The board will vote on Korman's appointment next month. In the meanwhile, the public has been invited to send comments of support of or against the appointment to the town hall.
The Shaftsbury Select Board meets the first and third Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at Cole Hall on Buck Hill Road in Shaftsbury. Full recordings of their meetings are available on Catamount Access Television, and on the station's YouTube page.