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Buckland votes Thursday on highway garage

BUCKLAND — For almost 25 years, the town has had an inadequate highway garage — or no garage at all — but voters may change that situation at Thursday’s special town meeting, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall.

Town officials are asking permission to buy about 12 acres on Route 2 — the site of a former drive-in movie theater in Charlemont, near the town border. The property already houses a former bus maintenance building, which would be upgraded to serve the Highway Department.

The estimated cost to buy the land is $675,000 and the cost for new building and renovations on the site is $964,860.

Passage of another article would give selectmen the authority to seek special legislation to acquire land for a town-owned building outside the town boundaries, under the state’s Home Rule Amendment. Selectmen have said the land buy will not take the property off of Charlemont’s tax rolls.

According to town officials, the Highway Department was first ordered to vacate the old Conway Street garage for safety reasons in October 1989, when a structural engineer’s review recommended condemning the building. A year later, a town garage committee recommended $15,000 to $25,000 in repairs that could buy the town five to six years more use of the garage, although trucks could not be parked in the upper level and the heat could not be fixed.

An April 2005 structural evaluation recommended the building be torn down and replaced, because it was no longer cost-effective to repair. Town officials began exploring garage options, from rebuilding on the current garage site to finding a new location.

They also explored whether the state Highway Department would share its Route 2 highway garage with Buckland. The town’s insurance company cance led coverage of the structurally impaired building, and, in 2008, the building inspector ordered Buckland to vacate the crumbling concrete garage because of unsafe conditions.

Since then, town officials have looked into buying and renovating the old Mayhew Steel factory, buying land from the Mohawk Trail Regional School District off Route 112 and other options.

The $964,860 requested for construction includes $366,100 for renovations to the existing building. These include new overhead doors, electrical upgrades, mechanical ventilation and renovations for an internal wash bay. Part of the money would go for building salt and sand sheds, and a 20- by-64-foot pole barn.

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

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