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Conway selectmen plan to spend more money to advance garage project

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>The Conway Highway Department/Fire Department

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    The Conway Highway Department/Fire Department Purchase photo reprints »

  • The town is planning to place a new highway garage behind the salt shed on the property of the Conway Grammar School, a project the newly formed Garage Committee has been working on. In May, townspeople approved $175,000 forin engineering designs and permitting for the project. (Recorder file photo)

    The town is planning to place a new highway garage behind the salt shed on the property of the Conway Grammar School, a project the newly formed Garage Committee has been working on. In May, townspeople approved $175,000 forin engineering designs and permitting for the project. (Recorder file photo) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>The Conway Highway Department/Fire Department
  • The town is planning to place a new highway garage behind the salt shed on the property of the Conway Grammar School, a project the newly formed Garage Committee has been working on. In May, townspeople approved $175,000 forin engineering designs and permitting for the project. (Recorder file photo)

CONWAY — Despite narrow defeat of the highway garage project last month, the Selectboard has voted 2-1 to spend another $50,000 so the project can go out to bid ahead of another try for voter approval in September.

The vote allows the town to continue paying the project manager and the architectural firm that is designing the building, Reinhardt Associates of Agawam, a total of $50,000 over the next three months to prepare bidding documents.

According to Town Administrator Tom Hutcheson, preparing the blueprints would make them 70 percent complete, the level of detail that is necessary to put the project out to bid. Currently, the documents are 30 percent complete. He said doing so would provide voters with a more realistic idea of what the project would cost.

Hutcheson said the money would come from $175,000 voters set aside in 2013 for designing the proposed garage. To date, $30,000 has been spent.

Currently, the cost of the garage is estimated at nearly $3.6 million, a figure that includes construction and borrowing costs. If the bids comes in over estimates, the town could receive aid from the state in the form of Chapter 90 highway funds, according to Hutcheson.

Selectboard Chairman John P. O’Rourke, who voted against continuing to fund the project, said he would like to see work by the project manager and the architectural firm suspended to give the Garage Committee some time to hear from residents and to develop a plan that voters would accept.

Voters must approve any garage plan twice: with a two-thirds vote in a special town meeting and in a Proposition 2 1/ 2 debt exclusion vote. If the debt exclusion were to pass, it would increase property taxes for 20 years until the project was paid off, according to O’Rourke.

“The risk is that either of the votes could fail, and an additional $50,000 would be spent for naught,” said O’Rourke. “I do not think it is prudent to proceed with the project until we have a clear mandate from the residents that would be expressed by two successful votes.”

Tim Singleton, the project manager, said it was likely the project would become more expensive the longer the town waited to act.

The project failed by two votes at a special town meeting June 16, with 76 residents voting “yes” and 43 voting “no.”

The current garage, located on Route 116, has inadequate storage space and heating, fails to provide protection from the elements for vehicles and equipment and does not meet disabilities requirements, according to town officials. The building is deteriorating and forces maintenance crews to work on vehicles outside, according to designers from Reinhardt Associates.

The building is shared by the Highway Department with the Fire Department and the ambulance.

Proponents say the new garage would provide indoor maintenance space and a safer work environment and safe storage in an unheated pole barn for the 12 vehicles. It would be located behind the salt shed on town property adjacent to the Conway Grammar School.

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