The Tewksbury Select Board met on March 8, 2022 at town hall. All members were present.
Consultants Jeff Alberti and Tony Wespiser of design firm Weston and Sampson provided the board with an updated presentation on the DPW/school maintenance facility at 1000 Whipple Road.
Alberti explained that as a branch of emergency and school maintenance services, the DPW needs a safe and efficient facility to operate; the school maintenance department alone is responsible for the upkeep of approximately one million square feet of facilities spread over 165 acres of land.
The original DPW facility was built in 1962, and while the footprint of the facility was expanded in the 1980s, no significant improvements have been made since; the building is not code compliant and does not serve department needs.
The facility houses approximately 155 pieces of equipment and maintains hundreds of miles of sidewalks, roads, water infrastructure, and sewer mains.
Alberti explained that initial cost estimates for the project were made at an uncertain time in the pandemic when prices were in flux, but estimates increased dramatically amid supply chain issues. Higher costs caused the town to reduce facility plans and consider reuse of structures. The project has been decreased by about 10,000 square feet, and will focus more significantly on renovation rather than reconstruction. Alberti highlighted the importance of keeping the potential for expansions if future conditions are favorable. Total project costs are projected at $29,520,000, a reduction of more than 20% of the original price achieved through cost control measures and adaptive reuse. The town is seeking to begin construction in 2023.
Alberti said that the improved facility will be beneficial to the town by creating a safe, code-compliant work environment for town employees; protecting the town’s multi-million dollar investment in vehicles and equipment; improving response times through greater efficiency to better serve the public; and consolidating space and resources between the DPW and school maintenance department.
Board members considered the financing mechanisms of the project. Town manager Richard Montuori explained that the town is planning to fund the project within the tax levy, and has worked for the last several years to get the town to a financial position in which a debt exclusion can be avoided. The town budget has allocated $1,589,178 in debt service, and more funds were added at a second town meeting. “Town meeting has voted twice for this project,” he said. “We have the funding in place to avoid a debt exclusion.” Other funding for a $25 million bond issue will come from the general fund and water and sewer enterprise funds. The remaining gap between $25 and 29 million will be covered through existing reserves, such as certified free cash and the stabilization fund. Montuori highlighted climbing interest rates, noting that the town still has enough funding to borrow but needs to move quickly.
“Now we’re in a position where we can say to our residents that we can take care of our DPW in a way that is going to be cost effective,” noted member Anne Marie Stronach.
The next meeting is scheduled for April 5, 2022. Residents may find the meeting agenda on the town website. The meeting may be viewed on Comcast channel 99 and Verizon channel 33.