New Bovina highway garage may cost $1 million to build

Public meeting is set for March 17

By Matthew J. Perry
After nearly five years of review and discussion, the Town of Bovina appears to be ready to replace its dilapidated highway garage with a modern structure. However, extensive debate on the size, cost, and location of the new facility will likely extend into the spring.
On March 4, at a project workshop meeting specifically for appointed town officials but open to the public, Doug Van Deusen of Lamont Engineers presented plans for a new building on the site of the existing garage, and ran through preliminary cost and financing estimates. Feedback from town officials was encouraged, while the public was not invited to comment. A follow-up meeting, at which public comments will be welcome, is scheduled for March 17 at 6 p.m.
Van Deusen began his presentation by displaying recent photographs of decay and water seepage in the existing garage, which amounted to a powerful argument for immediate action. It was also noted that an unannounced inspection by the state’s Department of Labor resulted in a number of citations for “non-serious” violations. However, town building inspector Dale Downin later remarked that he had also evaluated the garage and believed that the town had been “very lucky” that the state’s review had not been harsher.
“From what I saw it really should be condemned,” said Downin, after ticking off a list of serious threats to the building’s integrity. It was also noted that much of the town’s heavy equipment presently is stored and maintained outside in all weather, hastening depreciation.
Van Deusen stated that several other sites had been considered since 2003. Some were rejected because they were too far removed from the hamlet’s center, others because of access restrictions or proximity to water. Van Deusen’s report also stated that “numerous appeals” had been made to Bovina property owners to sell three to five acres to the town, but that no suitable offers had been extended.
“The only other option was to reconsider the existing garage site,” Lamont’s report stated. By staying on the present site, the engineers estimate a project savings of $117,000, including the cost of land acquisition, water supply, wastewater treatment and disposal, site grading and extension of utilities.
Construction of the new building is expected to take four to five months. However, the size and expense of the project are yet to be determined. Van Deusen presented several plans, ranging from building of 6,500 square feet, with a projected cost of roughly $1 million, to a downsized version with several fewer truck bays projected to cost $535,000. Both the high and low estimates had their advocates among the town appointees.
Highway Superintendent Bob Burgin was adamant that all the town’s trucks need to be stored inside the garage. “We have 53 miles of road to maintain,” he said. “Things break down.” Without sufficient space for storage and maintenance of vehicles, he maintained, “you defeat the whole purpose of a renovation.”
While Van Deusen was tasked with presenting the town with options, he seemed sympathetic to the argument that with construction costs rising, the town should build what it needs now, rather than add onto the structure at an inflated cost later. The existing plans estimate construction costs at $100 to $115 per square foot, or approximately $30 higher than they were five years ago, and Van Deusen saw no indication the trend will stop or reverse.
“Do we make the budget fit the project, or vice-versa?” Supervisor Tina Mole asked this question rhetorically in the middle of the presentation, but by the end of the meeting it was clear she saw an answer. “I don’t see a $1 million building as doable,” she said. “The tax increase would be huge.” She exhorted Mr. Burgin and other officials to list what features of the project were absolutely indispensable before the meeting on March 17.
Councilman Chuck McIntosh, siding with Mr. Burgin, informed the meeting that DEP officials had reviewed the site and seemed willing and able to pay for many remedial measures. Town assessor Joe Gifford noted that the town has $267,000 in a Good Neighbor Fund that could be applied to the project, and that the town could save money by shopping aggressively for long-term loans with local banks as well as in Albany. Overall, the town appointees seemed eager to find cost-cutting measures at all stages of the project.
But however intense debate might become, many at the meeting seemed to believe it should not be drawn out too long. “Time is of the essence,” said Mr. McIntosh. “We have to do something before that state inspector comes back.”