TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury Planning Board met on Dec. 13, 2021, and hosted a concept plan review for the DPW and school maintenance facility at 999 Whipple Road with Town Engineer Kevin Hardiman, DPW Director Brian Gilbert, and consultants Jeff Alberti and Tony Wespiser of Weston and Sampson.
Alberti explained that as a branch of emergency and school maintenance services, the DPW needs a safe and efficient facility to operate; the school maintenance department alone is responsible for the upkeep of approximately one million square feet of facilities spread over 165 acres of land.
The original DPW facility was built in 1962, and while the footprint of the facility was expanded in the 1980s, no significant improvements have been made since; the building is not code compliant and does not serve department needs.
Because the facility is undersized, the department’s multimillion dollar fleet is partially stored outdoors which reduces the lifespan of vehicles. In order to develop the design of the new facility, consultants conducted staff interviews to verify program and code requirements, developed a comprehensive list of vehicles and equipment, and prepared sketches for each operating area.
“The plan is to demolish the existing facility and build two structures totaling 63,000 square feet that will house DPW and school maintenance staff. The current DPW does not meet the current space needs and functions for the department today, resulting in concerns of employee safety and health, care and damage to vehicles and equipment, work efficiency, storage of stools and supplies, and security of the facility,” said Gilbert, adding that the new facility would offer improved spaces to allow staff to do their work efficiently while protecting the town’s investment in equipment.
The construction will be carried out in multiple phases. In the first phase, the vehicle and equipment storage and management facility will be built on currently unused land in order to allow for the existing main building in phase two to be demolished without disrupting operations.
On the site of the existing main building, facing Whipple Road, a new building with offices, trade shops, and vehicle storage will be built. Along Whipple Road and Pine Street, the plan will maintain the natural buffer and add more landscaping.
Alberti and Wespiser reviewed a stormwater infiltration plan with a collection system for runoff. The project will also include an earthen berm to screen the facility from abutters.
Alberti said that the improved facility will be beneficial to the town by creating a safe, code-compliant work environment for town employees; protecting the town’s multi-million dollar investment in vehicles and equipment; improving response times through greater efficiency to better serve the public; and consolidating space and resources between the DPW and school maintenance department.
He added that it is important for the town to avoid “band aid fixes” and create a design plan now to avoid a mandated emergency replacement.
Board member Eric Ryder asked about solar power on the building; Alberti said the building is solar compatible and there are good opportunities in the future to add solar based on the design of the building.
Alberti said that many towns are facing the same issues with their maintenance facilities and are following a similar design model for modernizing and improving facilities, adding that the project will need to pass town meeting’s approval before construction can start.