Selectmen to mull upgrading garage
WILTON – The Highway Department garage was built on Whiting Hill Road in 1956, and not much has been done to it since.
Director of Public Works Steve Elliott talked to selectmen recently about whether it’s time to begin thinking about and upgrade, and they agreed to discuss it.
"The garage is built of cement blocks, is basically uninsulated, and it hasn’t been enlarged since it was built," Elliott said. "We have four bays, but only one is heated."
The unheated bays are used to store tires and plows and park plow trucks. The one heated space contains the restroom, office and break room, and is the only place equipment can be worked on in freezing weather.
The heat is provided by a wood furnace.
"It’s hard to even sit in there when we bring in the 10-wheeler," Elliott said. "And it is the break room."
He would like to see all of the bays heated, plus an additional one built.
"The electrical system is 60 years old and the lights don’t always work," Elliott said. "I’d like some kind of drainage system so we could de-salt the trucks.
"And an office for me. Mine is used for everything, and it is kind of disheveled."
Elliott was named road agent in 2003. His title was changed to director of public works five years ago when Maurice Guay retired as manager of the Recycling Center and it was put under the highway department, a move Elliott sees as good.
"I’d like to see a fund started" for the eventual upgrade of the garage, he said. "And maybe form a committee to see what the town needs. It takes time. Maybe in the next few years."
Elliott noted the many years of study and discussion before voters agreed to build the police station and remodel the fire station.
On Sunday, Selectman Chairman Kermit Williams agreed that something probably should be done about the garage, but "right now, we have too many other projects," he said, "and we haven’t talked to the Budget Committee."
The costs of renovating the west end of Town Hall, the former police station, are unknown at this time, he said.
"Those contractors we’ve talked to, they know the building is on the Historic Register and have proposed historic restoration we might not be able to afford," Williams said. "We need to be able to use the space."
While the space is needed, it isn’t very usable right now, he added, in spite of it being used by several people, including the building inspector. The heating is unreliable and should be rewired. Storage in Town Hall is scarce, and an office is needed for the new town administrator.
"We have to look at all of that" to get all of the costs, Williams said.
Forming a study committee is a good idea, he said.
"Look at all of the town services," Williams said. "There are some who think the fire department and the ambulance service should be combined."
He did not see that as currently feasible.
"But we will talk about it," he said.
Longtime road agent Charlie McGettigan recalled the highway department before the garage was built, when Lawrence Gibbons was the road agent.
"We rented the building across from the library," he said. "We stored tires and fuel there, and sometimes repaired equipment."
Mostly, the highway equipment was parked outdoors.
The town barn, he said, "is well constructed," and when it was built was intended to be used by the water, sewer and highway departments.
McGettigan didn’t see a problem with using wood heat.
"I used to go down at night and fill it up," he said.