SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – As a stopgap solution for the public works department’s immediate storage needs, the Springfield Select Board approved the town’s acquisition the armory building Monday, April 23.
The action was part of a longer discussion by the Select Board about needed improvement to the public works facility, which could require an estimated cost of $3.65 million to renovate, according to a facility study presentation by Edward Clark of NBF Architects.
The town hired Clark’s firm to study the feasibility of expanding the capacity of the public works facility, whose capacity is no longer adequate to store the department’s vehicles and equipment.
The building was constructed in 1953 and is approaching 70 years in age, Clark told the board. Though the building has been well maintained and remains in good structural condition, its design is out of date for today’s needs.
“The truck bays are much too small for the plows they house now,” Clark said. “Plows are much bigger today than they were in 1953.”
The service area bays are also too small to accommodate many vehicles needing maintenance. Vehicles often need to be removed from the garage in order to having working space, and the lack of structural depth makes it difficult to raise some vehicles on the service lift.
“When they bring a fire truck for service [we] can only lift the front of the truck,” said Public Works Director Peter Strong.
The facility also lacks an adequate centralized storage area for the department’s other machines and equipment, Clark said. Valuable equipment is currently stored in separate standing sheds, some located far from the main building and lacking preferred security.
To complicate matters, the largest of these storage sheds is on the verge of collapse and requires immediate replacement.
“When you look at the rear wall of the structure, you can see that the rear wall undulates up and down,” Town Manager Tom Yennerrell told the board. “That’s because the roof is collapsing.”
Clark’s proposed renovation would triple the facility’s current capacity from 11,000 to 34,000 square feet, providing ample garage space to hold and service 12 large vehicles, including the department’s current fleet of 10 snow plows. Strong said that presently the department’s oldest plow has to be kept outside due to lack of space.
The proposed plan would also renovate the building’s interior, including replacing the old electrical wiring and bringing all systems up to code. Clark said the proposed plan was targeted to serve the town’s needs for the next 50 years.
“I think this [plan] is economically satisfactory,” Strong told the Select Board. “They moved up there in 1953. I give them a lot of credit for keeping the building in good shape. A lot of money has been invested over the years in the roof. But that comes at a price [with the building becoming outdated].”
While Clark said the armory building would not be a practical long-term solution for the department, it can provide sufficient storage for the time being.
“It is obvious that the expansion will not happen during the near future,” Yennerrell told the board. “Funding will need bonding. [Presenting this study] was informational, something for the board to think about.”
Select Board members said that the armory would buy them time in order to explore a course for resolving the public works facility needs. Acquiring the armory carries no cost to the town, and Yennerrell said the building is already environmentally approved by Vermont Agency of Natural Resources for the proposed usage. The armory is currently used by Friends of Springfield Town Library for their annual book sale. According to Yennerrell, the town has worked out an agreement that would allow the library organizers to continue using the space.
Board Chair Kristy Morris said he does not foresee the town investing to renovate the armory beyond temporary storage though; he thinks it could be potentially sold to private investors.