New Ancram garage gives crew solid footing

ANCRAMDALE–Ancram Highway Superintendent Jim MacArthur is a patient man… and it has finally paid off.

After nearly 15 years as road chief, his wish for a new highway garage has come true. Construction and renovation work on the new 80 x 84-foot wood composite structure at 32 Maple Lane, the site of the old garage, is mostly complete, with just some minor interior “odds and ends” remaining to be done, Mr. MacArthur told The Columbia Paper this week.


All the town’s highway equipment has been moved inside just in the nick of time. During last week’s major snowstorm, for the first time, members of the highway crew were able to work on their trucks in a place of their own that is warm and dry.

Most of the old, cramped and crumbling 80 x 32-foot facility built in 1938 had dirt floors and was unheated. The only enclosed bay that had a concrete floor and some heat was too small to accommodate a truck with a snow plow. Crews had to work on plow trucks outside or take them to another town’s highway garage. The garage’s only restroom was a 4 X 4-foot stall in a corner of the repair bay.

While the new garage has many upgraded features, like adequate space and lighting, a new well and septic system, new bathrooms, a propane furnace and radiant heat in a concrete floor throughout, Mr. MacArthur said just having a floor makes a big difference.

Outside the new facility, site plans call for a storm water retention pond, a drainage plan and improved wetland buffer, and evergreen screening.

It was three years ago this coming January, that then Town Supervisor Tom Dias held a public meeting at the old highway garage to show people the crude conditions under which the town’s Highway Department was operating.

What followed were two years of disagreement over what to do about it. Proposals were put forth, but never advanced. Then the new administration took over last January, having run on the platform that the highway garage should stay at the same site. And a new garage construction committee, chaired by Emile Racenet, was assembled. A variety of building-types and where to build them were considered. At first, it seemed that the town might demolish the old Borden Milk Factory on the three-acre site in Ancramdale to make way for a new highway garage, but then architect Joe Iuviene came up with the more economical idea to save and add on to the existing garage building.

In an August special election, by more than a two-to-one margin, voters authorized the town to borrow up to $400,000 for the project, with a total cost not to exceed $500,000.

The project moved ahead quickly, with the crew able to move in December 1, a month ahead of schedule, noted Supervisor Art Bassin, who had nothing but praise for the way things turned out.

“I think the project was a wonderfully managed by the Highway Department, the architect and the contractors,” he said, estimating the highway crew saved the town anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 by doing much of the work within the department’s budget.

The town has so far spent about $450,000 on the project, and the supervisor expects the total cost to come in right around $500,000.

The town is now weighing other improvements at the Highway Department site, including conversion of the old milk factory into a salt storage shed, perhaps next fall; improvements to the wetland buffer, for which the town already has a state Department of Environmental Conservation permit; and possibly installing energy-saving solar panels for the new garage.

In another first, on December 22, Mr. MacArthur said his department were able to host their first Christmas party. In years past, Ancram has always joined with Highway Departments from Pine Plains, Northeast and Gallatin to celebrate the holidays, but has always had to travel to one of those towns for the party. This year, the new facility made it possible to celebrate in Ancram.

The public is invited to tour the new garage at an open house there Saturday, January 15, noon to 4 p.m. Refreshments, if any, have not yet been decided upon.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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