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Sheffield opts to build new rather than renovate old property for upgraded highway garage

SHEFFIELD — A three-month municipal investigation into the potential purchase of a property for the use of housing a new highway garage has ended with the town declining the opportunity, citing excessive cost concerns.

Situated at the intersection of Home Road and County Road, the four-acre parcel is currently owned by Pexco LLC, an Atlanta-based specialty plastics fabrication company. Members of the Select Board had been mulling at the idea of using the site as a new garage for vehicles of the highway department, or as an upgraded building for the police department.

Currently, the highway department is at 35 Pike Road, and the police department is stationed at 10 S. Main St.

In the end, the town’s Select Board decided against the idea of buying the property and has instead opted to construct their own highway garage in the near future.

Select Board member Nadine Hawver detailed the town’s reasoning to construct a new building rather than to renovate an older one.

“We spent a lot of time and energy investigating,” Hawver said at the Monday, Jan. 6 Select Board meeting. “Martin [Mitsoff] spent a lot of hours walking the building with architects and engineers. Ultimately, the estimate to renovate the building was more than three times what the board was anticipating it was going to be.”

Not including the purchase cost of the building, the town received an estimate of renovation costs totalling over $10 million, according to Hawver.

“As disappointing as it was, when Rhonda [LaBombard] gave me the figure, all I could do was sit and laugh at how absurd it was, because there was no way that I, in clear conscience, could ask the taxpayers to bite the bullet on that,” Hawver said.

Structural changes to the building would be needed in order to meet certain requirements to serve as a highway garage, said Rene Wood, chairperson of the Select Board. Both Wood and Hawver praised Pexco for their cooperation throughout the process.

“There was no issue with anything other than renovation,” Wood said. “The folks at Pexco were extremely generous to the town. The issue was the needs that were going to have to be put in place to make that portion of the building that was going to be, for the most part, the highway garage. There are some very specific requirements, some which required some modifications that were a lot more expensive than anyone thought would be possible.”

Despite not moving forward with the purchase, Hawver called the investigation an “educational opportunity.”

“They were so cooperative and they gave us access to the building time and time again,” said Hawver. “As disappointed as we were, they were as well, but they totally understood that it was just going to be too expensive to ask the taxpayers to support the project.”

Select Board member Martin Mitsoff said he thought the board had done their due diligence on the property before a decision was made.

“I think we all came together in a very dedicated way and thought through every potential question until we were able to get that estimate,” Mitsoff said.  We made the right decision.”

Select Board members then discussed how the town would move forward with finding a new home for a highway garage through soliciting bids from prospective properties.

Sheffield Town Administrator Rhonda LaBombard cited the poor conditions of the current highway garage as a need for a new one.

“Anyone who takes a look at our current situation in the highway garage, completely understands why we need a new and upgraded garage,” LaBombard said. “We are going to be putting out a Request for Proposal on property once we develop the size and location we need, and we will move forward from there to construct a new highway garage.”

The town isn’t aware of any existing property that would work for a new highway garage, said Wood. Any purchase of property would have to be approved at the annual town meeting.

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