AMESBURY — James Noonan talks of his building at 39 South Hunt Road like a proud father.
But that's not surprising, after all, seeing how he planned and designed just about every square inch of space for his company Radar Technology Inc. in 2005.
Now, the building he's proud to call his own could become the home of Amesbury's public works department.
A small group of councilors and the public got the chance to tour Noonan's building, which has a selling price of $1.2 million, and see some of the features he planned, from the open space concept to the high ceiling.
At next week's Finance Committee meeting, councilors will discuss a proposal by Mayor Thatcher Kezer to spent $5.9 million to buy the property and retrofit it into office and storage space and construct a 12,000-square-foot garage/maintenance building behind it. The plan also calls for relocating the city's snow dump and compost site to the vacant 56 South Hunt Road site.
The city wants to move the public works garage out of its current location in the Lower Millyard in order to redevelop that site in the center of the city. Councilors were considering authorizing $8 million for a public works facility at a vacant lot a quarter-mile down the road.
District 3 Councilor Donna McClure set up the site visit, which was attended by fellow councilors Bob Lavoie, Joseph McMilleon and Christian Scorzoni.
Other councilors previously visited the site.
"I think it's a fantastic building at a great price," McClure said. "I hope Amesbury can make do with this without having to add too much to it. I'm hoping we can pull in the belt buckle and tighten things up here and make it work."
The building does have its limitations. Noonan said the warehouse floor cannot support heavy trucks.
The building is a mix of warehouse space and office space. There's a total of 14,000 square feet in the building. The property is 6 acres with the back edge of the property reaching near Interstate 495.
In the wooded area in the back of the property are remnants of part of the old harness horse racing track that was in Amesbury decades ago.
Lavoie found the property while he was taking a ride to check out the previous proposed site at 56 South Hunt Road, which is a former dump. Lavoie said he saw the potential — and the savings — of moving the public works here instead of building a new facility down the road.
Constructing a building similar to the size and design of 39 South Hunt Road would cost the public sector up to three times more. The state requires that municipalities pay prevailing wage when building new projects, which drives up the cost.
Noonan, who is retiring soon and turning over the company to his daughter, started the company in 1973 in Haverhill and moved to Merrimac before building its own space in 2005.
His company saw most of their business building amplifiers for the military but that ended when the Cold War ended.
"I was doing 1,000 amplifiers a month for Raytheon, and it went down to nothing," Noonan said.
He thought his business was going to fold when a friend recommended going into control systems, which now makes up the bulk of his business.
"We got into that, and it was fantastic," Noonan said.
He moved into the facility with about two dozen employees, and the bad economy whittled it down to his remaining 13. Noonan still doesn't know where they will be going.
"We're still looking," he said.