Bennington looks to save big on new building

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BENNINGTON — The town is pursuing a plan to get a new public works facility for half of what it originally sought to spend.

According to a memo circulated at Monday's Select Board meeting, In 2010, the town planned to build a new Department of Public Works (DPW) facility at the former Jard superfund site, which the town owns. The proposed 20,000 square foot building would have housed personnel and equipment. There would have been a second garage building, along with a sand and salt shed.

All this would have cost about $5 million, but it never happened because of Tropical Storm Irene, which in 2011 caused historic levels of flood damage to Bennington, along with the rest of Vermont. The town had to spend roughly $5 million to deal with the storm damage and after years of appeals was able to recover all but $1.4 million.

In the meantime, the cost of moving forward with the original DPW plan rose by about $1 million, given the rise in the cost of materials, said Town Manager Stuart Hurd.

Also during that period, February 2015 to be exact, Plasan North America closed its plant at 228 Bowen Road. Plasan also owns 78 Bowen Road, which the town means to buy for $1.7 million. With the planned fuel depot, sand and salt shed, and other improvements such as drainage and ventilation, the total cost will be $3.2 million.

After hearing Hurd's presentation, and holding a brief discussion, the board voted unanimously, with one member absent, to let town staff negotiate a purchase option agreement with Plasan for the 78 Bowen Road building.

The property is currently assessed at $1.03 million, but will probably be reassessed at $1.6 million, according to Hurd.

Paying for it still requires voters to approve a bond. "We've talked with the bond bank. As you know, bond costs are low right now," Hurd said.

If voters approve a bond, the town would only pay interest in the first year, amounting to $73,500. The highest amount paid in a year would be no more than $251,000. The amount would drop each year over the 20-year life of the bond. It would be repaid through the highway department and, to a lesser extent, the water department as some personnel from water would be housed there.

Reach Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-2176 Ext. 115 or @kwhitcombjr


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