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$4 million bond for new highway garage planned for Peterborough warrant

  • Peterborough will have a proposed warrant article for a $4 million bond to construct a new highway garage to replace the current garage, located on Elm Street. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Peterborough will have a proposed warrant article for a $4 million bond to construct a new highway garage to replace the current garage, located on Elm Street. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • The Peterborough Fire and Rescue station is too small to serve the current needs, according to Fire Chief Ed Walker. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The Peterborough Fire and Rescue station is too small to serve the current needs, according to Fire Chief Ed Walker. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The Peterborough Fire and Rescue station is too small to serve the current needs, according to Fire Chief Ed Walker. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The Peterborough Fire and Rescue station is too small to serve the current needs, according to Fire Chief Ed Walker. Staff photo by Ashley Saari



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, January 03, 2019 10:44AM

Peterborough voters will decide whether or not to build a new highway garage this year, with a price tag of about $4 million.

The project is planned to be an article on the May Town Meeting warrant.

“It’s old and everything has degraded tremendously,” said Capital Improvement Committee Chair Bob Hanson in an interview Thursday. “The work area is freezing cold, and they can’t fit all the equipment in. They need more space. If you walk in there, you’ll see why we need a new one.”

The current highway garage is located on Elm Street, and shares a property with the Peterborough Community Center. The new building is planned to be constructed adjacent to the town’s current wastewater treatment facility, which like the highway department, is under the town’s department of public works.

“There’s some efficiencies to be gained there, because you would have the functions in the same place,” Selectwoman Karen Hatcher said in an interview Thursday.

The estimated price of $4 million is not confirmed, but is based off of similar buildings constructed in other communities within the last few years. Peterborough officials are currently looking at procuring plans from a highway building that fits their needs, and adapting them to the site of their planned building, rather than commissioning new plans.

The plan is to bond the cost of the highway garage. The first annual payment for a 20-year-bond for the estimated cost of $4 million at 4 percent interest would be about $356,000, according to Town Administrator Rodney Bartlett.

If approved, the bond, using those estimates, would add about 50 cents per $1,000 of value to the tax rate in the first year of the bond.

The highway garage is only part of a multi-year plan for the town to address some of its municipal facilities.

Fire station is up next

If the construction of a new highway garage is approved, it would leave the door open for the next facilities project which is the fire station. Construction of a new station is estimated to cost about $7 million.

The fire station is another municipal building that is crowded for space and deteriorating, Hanson said.

“I think the fire department may be the more urgent need between the two,” Hanson said. “[Both the fire station and highway garage] have been studied for years, but times were tight, and they were both just put off. Now we have these facilities that are in rough shape.”

Currently, the town plans to build a new fire station where the current highway garage is located, which means the highway garage will have to move first.

The plan is to address the highway garage in 2019, fire station plans and engineering in 2020, and raising the funds for fire station construction in 2021.

The Peterborough fire station was constructed in 1945, though at that time, it served as the Department of Public Works garage. The building was re-purposed as a fire station in 1971, when the DPW moved to its current location on Elm Street.

The town has discussed a new fire facility dating as far back as 2005, when the town did a municipal facilities needs assessment and study, though the discussion has never made it as far as being on the town warrant for voting.

In 1971, when the fire department first moved into its current station, both the fire an ambulance departments were much smaller, Fire Chief Ed Walker said. The station wasn’t staffed and the department had no full-time employees, and only one ambulance. Now, the station is staffed 24-hours a day, with 22 employees and four ambulances, responding to nearly 2,700 calls for service.

“There has been a huge change in mission for the fire service, much less the Fire and Rescue service,” Walker said.

Walker said based on assessments of the fire and ambulance’s current needs, the fire station should be about 18,000 square feet. Their current station is about 6,800 square feet.

“We have our forestry truck outside, our fire prevention truck outside, fire officers vehicles outside,” Walker said.

It’s not ideal, particularly in the winter, Walker said, when officers are trying to respond to calls and may have to clear off snow or ice.

There are space issues at the fire station, including the need for a changing room, a larger storage area in the vehicle bay, a larger training area and storage room for storage of medical supplies. Currently, the bay is too small for the amount of vehicles the department owns, and there are vehicles that are stowed outside.

The department has a multi-purpose room, Walker said, which has become a combination bunkhouse, training room and storage area.

“It’s inadequate for all those things, because it’s trying to be all those things,” Walker said.

Hatcher said the timeline for building a new fire department will be dependent upon this year’s vote and whether the highway department moves to a new location.

“You can’t do that next step until you’ve done the other,” Hatcher said. “I think the process is the right process and the right plan. It’s just the timing of the plan that will be determined by the voters.”

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com.