To the editor:
At Rockport’s Town Meeting on Monday, Sept. 9, the voters of Rockport will decide whether to approve a proposed new Department of Public Works facility for the town. The construction of a new facility is the strong recommendation of the town’s Building Study Committee, and has the support of the Board of Selectmen, the Finance Committee and the DPW Commissioners. As members of the Building Study Committee, we urge the citizens of Rockport to support this project, both at Town Meeting and at a special election Oct. 15 on an override for the project.
The Building Study Committee was appointed in 2018 to look at all town buildings and make recommendations on needed improvements, building on an earlier study from 2015. Although we are volunteers, we are well-qualified for the task, with career backgrounds in finance, architecture and construction. As we began our work, it quickly became apparent that the DPW “barn” was the first and most urgent priority.
The town first recognized the deficiencies of this building more than 20 years ago, and several studies since have confirmed it needs to be replaced. Built in 1956, the barn is badly deteriorated, too small for current needs and, most important of all, is a safety hazard to the employees, and could be shut down at any time.
The building does not comply with current building codes, and lacks proper heating, ventilation, electrical and plumbing systems. It has no maintenance bays, as required by code, and no vehicle lifts, so heavy trucks must be hand-cranked to allow work underneath – a dangerous situation. It is also in violation of fire codes, and has no sprinkler system. A fire in the building could not only cause serious injury, but destroy valuable vehicles – all at great cost to the town.
This is not a case of poor maintenance. The building structure itself is simply not capable of supporting the spaces and systems required by today’s more stringent building codes.
The Building Study Committee spent months reviewing plans for a new facility that were developed in 2016. These plans were approved at Town Meeting in 2016 but failed at the ballot, due to cost, which was just shy of $9 million. Today, the cost is $3 million more, due to cost escalation in construction that shows no signs of abating. Our committee searched for ways to cut costs – but the project had already been reduced 20% in 2016, and about 50% of the costs are due to requirements of the building code. We can’t leave anything out.
We also considered upgrading and enlarging the current facility, but found it would cost more than building new – and would result in a building with awkward layout that would be inefficient from day one.
After thorough review, we concluded that the proposed plan is the most cost-effective option for a new building that will meet Rockport’s needs for the next 50 years. We ask town voters to support this project, and give our Department of Public Works the facilities and the tools it needs to work safely and provide the myriad services we all want and expect from them, 365 days a year. It will only cost more if we wait.
For answers to your questions, please review the detailed materials on the town website, and come to a public informational meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Rockport police station. To see the “barn” for yourself, please attend an open house there just prior to the meeting, from 6 to 7 p.m.
Monica Lawton, Chair
Kate Johns Shaw
Rockport Building Study Committee