Merrimack looking to spend $3.3M on new highway garage

It’s been almost a decade since Merrimack has built a new municipal building, but town officials are hoping that statistic will change if this year’s warrant is approved.

Merrimack voters will face the proposition of approving $3.3 million toward the building of a new highway garage, expanding on the current one at 80 Turkey Hill Road.

Paul Micali, Merrimack’s finance director, thinks it’s about time.

“It’s a No. 1 priority for us,” Micali said. “The Town Council has looked at all the infrastructure needs of the community. … This has come up the last two years as one of the most important projects.”

Merrimack Town Manager Eileen Cabanel said the town held off on proposing a new highway garage until the town had caught up on roadway improvements.

“We needed to get on the right track as far as our roads were concerned,” Cabanel said. “We feel we’ve gotten to that point now.”

Cabanel said Merrimack is long overdue for a new highway garage, which houses 28 of Merrimack’s municipal employees.

“They have valiantly pieced this thing together all these years,” Cabanel said. “They’ve patched sides, they’ve built the entire mezzanine from scrap wood that they’ve picked up at the transfer station.”

Cabanel said safety is also a concern at the current highway garage.

“If a citizen came in and they wanted to talk to public works, they’d come in through the garage and somebody could be welding a piece of equipment right in front of them,” Cabanel said.

Micali said the space at the current facility is cramped to say the least.

“You can have a gentleman working on a plow truck right next to where they’re eating lunch, or right next to where they’ve got to come in welding something.”

Public Works Department Operations Manager Adam Jacobs said employee safety is also one of his main concerns.

“Employee safety is the big one,” Jacobs said. “To have everything under one roof … when there is exhaust in this room, we just open the doors.”

Jacobs said the current highway garage, built in 1978, is “nowhere near code” and a new building would further protect his fleet of trucks, allowing more to be sheltered from the elements.

If the proposed highway garage is approved next month, new locker rooms, break rooms and bathrooms also will be built.

Cabanel said the price of the current proposed garage, $3.3 million, is far less expensive than the $8.7 million price tag attached to an “oversized” garage proposed by an architectural firm.

According to Cabanel, town officials were able to keep the price lower by utilizing the existing garage with the new one, if it is built. Town employees also didn’t ask for much.

“Surprisingly, the employees were ultra conservative with the size that they wanted, Cabanel said. “They just wanted something a little better.”

If Article 2 of the warrant is approved, Cabanel said the impact would add about 13 cents to the tax rate.

Four other articles populate the draft warrant this year, including an article to raise $5,000 for reimbursement education, an article to raise $10,000 for a Geographic Information System Reserve Fund and an article to choose town officers.

Article three of the draft warrant is the town’s proposed operating budget, which is listed as $31,979,257.

If that number is not approved by Merrimack’s voters, the default budget is $27,892,458.

The public hearing for Merrimack’s proposed municipal budget, where voters will be allowed to comment, was held last week in the Town Hall.

The town’s Deliberative Session is planned for Thursday, March 13, but may be rescheduled because of snow.

Voting on the budget will coincide with town elections on April 8.

Bradford Randall can be reached at 594-6557 or brandall@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Randall on Twitter (@telegraph_bradr).