Last week saw a couple of ceremonies and celebrations that herald milestones in the history of Charlotte.
On Tuesday, Nov. 28, a group of residents and four selectboard chairs, gathered in the town hall to mark the retirement of town administrator Dean Bloch after 24 years of working for Charlotte.
Besides current chair Jim Faulkner, former selectboard chairs Charlie Russell, Lane Morrison and Matt Krasnow came to bid Bloch farewell and to formally welcome Nate Bareham. Bareham has been working for about a month with Bloch to make the transition as smooth as possible.
On Wednesday, a group of about 100 residents joined in the new town garage and celebrated the completion of that construction project.
Four days before Christmas in 2021, the garage on Church Hill Road where road commissioner housed his snow plows burned along with four snow plows and other equipment. Two years later, Charlotte’s first town-owned garage has been completed.
Residents toured the new facility while officials touted the fossil-free energy system that will keep the building comfortable. And eliminate the need for Junior Lewis or his crew to work on their back in the snow to do repair work.
Initially, the selectboard had hoped to have a new garage built before the winter of 2023, but various problems, not the least of which was the high cost of building the facility made that impossible. In early October of last year, town officials were stunned to have only received two bids and both were for almost $3.8 million to build the garage just north of Church Hill Road at 3630 Ethan Allen Highway.
That was a problem because town residents had approved only $3 million in voting in a special election, and both of those bids were rejected by the selectboard.
Faulkner and Block were authorized to work with the two companies that submitted bids to see if there was a way to do some “value engineering” of their bids.
One of the companies didn’t submit a second bid but Farrington Construction of Shelburne worked with the town and came back with a bid of $2,958,000.
One of the results of the value engineering was the building that had originally been designed to be steel was changed to a wood frame building.
“We got really creative to build a building without sacrificing any space,” Dave Farrington, president of Farrington Construction told those gathered.
The building was originally planned to be fossil fuel free, but the solar energy system to realize that goal was not included in the original budget town voters approved, but voters enthusiastically approved this addition to the project in a vote this fall.
“What an incredible legacy Dean and Jim have brought our town,” said Rebecca Foster, chair of the town energy committee. “I’m personally incredibly grateful that with this project the town decided to think forward, to think about the future generations.”
After Foster spoke, one of the garage bay doors was opened and one of Lewis’ snow plows was driven in to “cut” a ceremonial ribbon.