To the editor:

Rockport Town Meeting is Monday night at 7 p.m. On the warrant is an article to approve a new Department of Public Works facility for our town. Speaking for dozens of volunteer “Friends of the New DPW Facility,” I ask your support for this must-pass article, which requires a two-thirds vote.

The current DPW facility was built in 1956 and can’t be renovated to meet current needs and building codes. It is unsafe, too small for today’s needs, lacks required vehicle maintenance facilities, is inefficient and is in danger of being shut down by the state. It lacks essential fire control systems. A fire would destroy much of the DPW equipment, causing a major series of problems, such as the inability to plow and maintain roads, and maintain water and sewer operations. Other towns have experienced this at great costs and inconvenience.

DPW operations at the current facility could spill untreated toxic runoff, which drains into Cape Pond next door. The new facility will contain state and federal mandated controls for this. The new facility will house all but a few DPW employees, making the department operations much more efficient. Just the added protection for vehicles is expected to save more than $100,000 per year.

The town’s Building Study Committee, which was formed last year, has studied this thoroughly and has concluded that this design is the least expensive alternative that meets our requirements. About 50% of the cost is for spaces and systems required by federal and state laws and current building codes. They are working with Weston & Sampson, which has designed and built similar facilities for 100 cities and towns in the Northeast, and the costs are in line with facilities built recently.

Even after working through extensive cost cutting planning with Weston & Sampson, the expected budget is $12.2 million. The cost to improve the existing facility is much higher and won’t meet our needs. The town will need to issue a bond to finance the facility. Voters will need to approve a debt exclusion to pay debt service on the bond. For the life of the bond, this will increase taxes by the amount necessary to pay debt service on the bond. If your house has a median assessment of $513,350, this will initially increase your annual tax bill by between $178 and $236, depending on market interest rates and other factors when the bond is issued. This increase will decline significantly over the next 20 years as the bond is paid off. Market interest rates are near all-time lows today. Eventually they are likely to increase, resulting in higher taxes if we delay.

It is clear that we must invest in this. Delay will certainly increase the cost and incur much risk. In 2016 voters turned down this investment which was $8.8 million at the time. Due to escalating costs in today’s market, as well as constantly tightening regulations, this has increased to $12.2 million. It is logical to think this will increase more if we wait. For more information, go to the town’s website, www.rockportma.gov, and click on the Town Meeting tab to the right. You will find seven excellent reports on all aspects. If you want to read only one, read “DPW Facility Detailed Information Breakdown.”

Wally Hess

Chairman

Friends of the New DPW Facility

Rockport

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