By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY — The start of the new year means a new home for the Department of Public Works, which will be moving into its new administrative offices at 39 South Hunt Road on Jan. 3.
The move will mark the first phase of the DPW’s transition out of the downtown area; the City Council voted to approve the $5.9 million relocation plan in July. The administrative offices will move into an existing structure at the South Hunt Road site, and in the spring preparations will begin to build a new garage that will house the department’s vehicles and equipment.
“We’ll be out to bid in the late spring, and construction will begin in the summer and will be completed in the winter of 2013,” said DPW director Rob Desmarais. “It should be done pretty much a year from now.”
Desmarais said the department’s vehicles and equipment would remain in the existing garage at 37 Water St. in the Lower Millyard until the new facility is completed. He estimated that the old garage could be demolished by the spring of 2014.
After the garage is demolished, city officials hope to begin redeveloping the Lower Millyard in order to turn it into a much more valuable and business-friendly area.
The relocation plan also called for the creation of a new composting facility and snow dump at 56 South Hunt Road, down the street from the new office. Desmarais said those facilities have already been completed.
The DPW’s new offices will house the administrative functions of the department’s divisions, including water, sewer, highway and trees, parks and cemeteries (TPC).
The DPW’s offices are currently located on the second floor of 9 School St., which previously housed the Amesbury Council on Aging and the city’s Veterans Services office. Both of those departments moved into the new Nicholas Costello Transportation Center on Elm Street when the building first opened in July.
The debate over whether to move the DPW was one of the hottest issues in Amesbury this past summer. Many residents were vehemently opposed to the proposed plan, arguing that it was too expensive and that a cheaper alternative could be found.
Originally, the city planned on using a different property on South Hunt Road that would have cost the city $8 million, but that plan was scrapped when the cheaper location that was eventually approved was brought to Mayor Thatcher Kezer’s attention.
The City Council ultimately approved the DPW plan 8-1, and once the proposal was approved, Kezer began the process of obtaining all the land and properties involved. The city obtained the key to the building in the fall, and since then work has been ongoing to prepare the building for use.