AMESBURY — Town officials are looking closely at a light manufacturing facility in town as a possible alternative for the town's public works garage, the mayor said.
Mayor Thatcher Kezer confirmed his staff is examining the site and whether it can be converted for use as a public works garage. "I don't want to name it," Kezer said. "I don't want to put the burden on current owner."
The move marks a major shift in direction for the plan to move the Department of Public Works out of the downtown's Lower Millyard. The Municipal Council is currently debating a proposal by the mayor to authorize an $8 million bond for the public works building project on South Hunt Road. But the cost has sparked concern.
The town wants to get the public works facility out of the Lower Millyard in order to jump-start a revitalization project for the downtown area.
Last year, a consulting firm identified 26 properties in Amesbury as potential sites for a public works garage and narrowed the list down to South Hunt Road and Clarks Road.
Councilors last year voted to go forward with the South Hunt Road property, a portion of which would be given to the town in exchange for hooking up a way to drain the leachate from the landfill to the sewer system.
The proposal expects to spend $180,000 to extend the sewer line to the property, but officials say they would need to extend the line anyway to hook up the public works building.
Since the council's vote, certain properties have opened up on the market and have been examined by the town, including Eastern Lumber on Route 110.
The size of a building isn't what stops it from becoming a DPW garage.
"A lot of things are different about public works buildings," Kezer said. "We're running motor vehicles inside a building, as well as vehicles holding fuel, antifreeze. You have to take a building designed for light manufacturing use and have to overhaul the environmental systems ... you have to make sure the building is designed to support the weight of the vehicles."
Three years ago, the town didn't go forward with relocating to the old Andrews Building.
"We didn't pull the trigger and go in the building because of all kinds of challenges to redesign the building for functions that public works do," the mayor said.
Kezer said the South Hunt Road plan before the council now is his current plan.
"We'll consider it, but at the end of the day, we'll need a building site that meets the operational needs of the DPW," he said.