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Buckland delays special town meeting

Waiting on better garage renovation costs

BUCKLAND — Faced with unacceptable estimates of $2 million to $2.5 million to convert an old bus depot into a town highway garage, town officials postponed a special town meeting scheduled for Thursday night to further research the bare-bones cost needed for a garage renovation.

An informational meeting about the project has been set for Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall. A new special town meeting date has not yet been set.

The town was to have voted on buying the former Mohawk drive-in property, which includes 12 acres and a 10,000-square-foot building used many years ago to house and service buses for B&F Transportation Co. The spending request for the land and building, to come from the Stabilization Account, was $675,000. Town meeting voters were also going to be asked to appropriate a sum needed to bring the old garage up to code.

But the approximate cost of at least $2 million, given by Huntley Associates, seemed to stun the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee members just two nights before the special town meeting was scheduled.

“We can’t afford this with what we have to pay for the land,” said Dena Wilmore, Finance Committee chairwoman. “We have to show that this is the most cost-effective way to get what we need to have. We don’t need the Taj Mahal.”

Selectman Kevin Fox suggested postponing the special town meeting until town officials had a cost they could recommend to townspeople. “If we don’t know how much it will cost to use the building, why would we want to buy it?” he remarked.

Town Administrator Andrea Llamas pointed out that Ashfield spent about $1.6 million to build a new town highway garage eight years ago.

Highway Superintendent Steve Daby said the existing building is structurally sound, and he didn’t believe that some of the recommended improvements given in the estimate were necessary. The two boards discussed what changes were essential — such as getting wider garage doors to accommodate the wider highway vehicles, and the need to build a wash bay onto the building. But they questioned the need for electrical system upgrades, mechanical ventilation systems, new bathrooms or possibly a new septic system.

The boards continued their meeting to Wednesday night to get an itemized list of costs from the engineer. But at Wednesday’s meeting, they agreed to postpone the special town meeting, rather than go to voters uncertain about the garage costs.

The town has not had a garage in which to house town vehicles since 2008, when the building inspector determined that the Conway Street garage was structurally unsound.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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