GEORGIA – At the Georgia Town Garage, home to the highway department’s staff of four and their fleet of vehicles and plows, the walls have settled so much that they’ve pinched emergency doors shut and are ripping at their seams.
“You can see where it’s cracking,” Georgia road commissioner and highway foreman Todd Cadieux said, pointing to one stretch of wall where the silicone holding together some of the bricks in the wall appeared to be pulling apart.
Cadieux, a longtime member of the highway department and its foreman for three years, toured the garage with the Messenger last week, highlighting some of the ways the building had sunk into disrepair since it was initially built at the end of the 1970s.
The roof, 25-years-old and past its projected lifespan, leaked during the winter, and wiring running along the garage’s back wall hung loose. Cadieux pointed toward an outlet where, if one looked closely, they could see the outlet hanging out of its slot in the brick.
Many of the problems Cadiuex would note for the Messenger were also highlighted in a buildings study conducted last year, where contractors from VIS Constructing Consultants identified the town garage as one of the most challenged buildings maintained by Georgia’s government.
“The building is in need of repair in nearly all component parts,” VIS wrote in their report. “The evident pattern of deferred maintenance will lead to rapid decline in the condition unless time and money are allocated to stabilize and improve the facility.”
In many ways, Cadieux echoed VIS’s report during his tour, relaying much of the information already documented in that public report.
He pointed out the building’s vents the town had covered in order to preserve heat and make the building more energy efficient. In doing so, the garage’s only ventilation was cut off, a possible safety hazard in a garage where vehicles are sometimes left idling and where welding can kick fumes into the air.
“We were told we were losing too much heat,” Cadieux said. “So now we have no way to ventilate.”
Cadieux had carbon monoxide detectors installed since the vents were covered, and recalled at least one time when those detectors triggered and people in the garage evacuated.
One of the three gas-powered furnaces hung over the garage was now out of code, according to Cadieux, because its exhaust stretches through the length of the building before being ultimately emptying out its south wall.
The garage’s other heating source, a wood-powered furnace, outright failed earlier this year and has since been unplugged and retired from the garage.
Outside the garage, there are scrapes along its garage bay doors and chunks of concrete chipped out of the cement frame above. Those nicks and dings, Cadieux said, were the result of bay doors that were just too small to accommodate the highway department’s modern equipment.
Inside, a mezzanine now used for storage looks out over the garage’s western bay. Its stairs were cited by VIS as a likely violation under Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) codes, and other safety concerns – its proximity to the ceiling – have led Cadieux to concentrate its storage use close to the mezzanine’s stairs.
“We try not to use it as much as possible,” Cadieux said.
As far as use, Cadieux said he could fit the highway department’s vehicles into the garage without leaving any vehicles out in the cold, though it could limit the space in the garage for town employees and narrow possible exit routes should they have to evacuate.
It’s cramped enough that, according to Cadieux, vehicles would have to be moved outside if any kind of maintenance was needed for a vehicle.
With their wood-fired boiler failing, Cadieux said the current shed housing the boiler could also be transitioned to cold storage, freeing up a little more space.
There were also a few aesthetic kinks highlighted in the VIS report that Cadieux noted. Most of the garage’s windows were broken, and VIS had recommended that the chipped paint and rust on the garage’s exit doors likely warranted a new paint job.
Since receiving VIS’s report last year, the Georgia selectboard has prioritized maintaining the town garage and, ultimately, possibly replacing it.
Already, voters approved the purchase of a 5.4-acre plot behind the town garage – otherwise known as the Gilmond property – that Georgia is looking to develop as the site of a new garage, and the selectboard’s approved several major expenditures for the maintenance of the current town garage.
Last week, the board approved recommended electrical work in the town garage using both municipal and grant funding, and, earlier this year, the selectboard also approved spending around $50,000 to replace the garage’s leaking roof.
They’ve also since tasked Cadieux with looking into a new heating system to address their current system, which would need to replace the old wood-fired boiler and rearrange the garage’s furnaces so that they’re up to code.
Should the town agree to a new garage, the current town garage would likely transition to cold storage, with enough heating pumped into the garage to keep its vehicles from freezing.
“For the most part, the old board here was very left in the dark about the town garage, so they never put any money into this building,” said Cadieux of the deferred maintenance issues at the town garage. “The board now seems really proactive and really wants to make the building safe.”
Currently, the town is waiting on a wastewater permit from the state before finalizing its purchase of the Gilmond property.