Rockport residents will have the opportunity to make a smart investment at Monday night’s Town Meeting, where they will be given the opportunity to approve spending roughly $12.25 million on a new public works garage.
To be sure, the vote isn’t that simple or straightforward. The warrant item actually calls for a debt exclusion override to fund the bulk of the project, meaning voters would be paying for the new building for the next 20 years. Rockporters would see an initial 4.7% increase on their property tax. That’s less than 75 cents a day for a family with a home at the median value of $513,350. If the measure passes Monday night, it would go to a townwide vote in October.
Town officials — and those who have worked for years in difficult conditions in the current, substandard facility — have made a compelling case for investment. The current building at 2 DPW Way was built in 1956, 13 years before man walked on the moon. While age can add beauty to a home, it often means danger in an industrial setting. Rockport’s Eisenhower-era building does not come close to meeting the town’s needs. It is too small to shelter its fleet of vehicles, meaning many trucks have to be stored outdoors, reducing their useful life. There are no dedicated lifts or maintenance bays, as required by code. There are no decontaminating showers for the department’s roughly 40 employees, only an eyewash station.
“The facility lacks proper drainage and pollutant controls,” the town’s Building Study Committee wrote of the building. “Workshop areas are cramped, inefficient and not compliant with code. The facility has inadequate, non-code-compliant carbon monoxide detectors, air exchanges, ventilation, fire suppression and egress, and lacks a sprinkler system -- all presenting a significant safety hazard. Heating and electrical systems are also code-deficient.”
Even the bathrooms can’t be kept up to code.
It’s not for lack of trying. The town has done an admirable job of keeping the 8,000-square-foot facility stitched together over the past six years. But it is clearly beyond its usefulness, and the proposed $12.2 million, 24,361-square-foot replacement would serve the town well for decades to come. It is well-designed, with no extravagances.
It is worth noting that residents turned down a similar proposal in 2016, when the project would have come in at roughly $9 million. Voters didn’t save themselves any money; the delay has only added to the cost of an essential project.
A functional public works facility isn’t a luxury. It’s a necessity.