Waterford's capital improvements focus shifts to municipal complex

Waterford - With the school capital improvement project almost complete, the town is now eyeing $9 million in long-delayed improvements to the municipal complex on Hartford Road.

The Municipal Complex Improvements Building Committee voted unanimously Monday to begin pursuing funding for the project. The committee plans to go to the Board of Finance in September and Representative Town Meeting in October to request authorization to seek loans and bond the work.

Chief Engineer Neftali Soto and First Selectman Daniel Steward say the complex is out-of-date and needs to be brought up to state building codes. The more than 50-year-old complex houses the Utility Commission, transfer station and a garage for town vehicles and other supplies.

"The only thing that will stay will be the outside shell," Soto said Monday following a meeting of the Municipal Complex Improvements Building Committee.

Steward explained that town officials have discussed making improvements to the complex for roughly 10 years, but that school construction projects took precedence. The only part left for the school projects is maintenance on the buildings and a few small additions and changes at the new high school.

Planned improvements to the municipal complex include cleaning up an oil plume underneath the building, which Steward said is of unknown origin, and changes to the electrical system such as increasing the number of outlets.

Steward said that the garage requires the most work. Standing near a cluster of Public Works trucks in the garage Monday, he pointed out a crack in the garage's cinder block wall. He said the garage also needed more ventilation to accommodate exhaust from Public Works trucks, taller exits for public works and garbage trucks, repairs of cracked walls and better insulation, and possible asbestos remediation.

He said the garage has no drainage system, posing problems when snow-covered trucks enter in the winter.

Finance Director Rudie Beers told the committee during the meeting that it would need to tap into the $300,000 in capital improvement funds designated for the project to hire engineers to revise the $9 million cost estimate from 2012.

"We don't want an 'oops,'" she said.

Steward said that state building codes have changed since 2012 so the complex could need different repairs than anticipated two years ago. Beers commented that the cost of planned improvements may have changed as well.

The town will rely on short-term borrowing to fund the improvements until at least 2017, when payments toward debt service for school capital project bonds are expected to go into decline, according to Beers.

The idea is to stagger debt obligations so as to minimize the impact on taxpayers, Steward said.

The bonding would be part of a roughly $10 million bond Steward said the town plans to pursue. It would also cover improvements to Town Hall and the Youth Services building.

t.townsend@theday.com

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