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Art Baker Talks Tabor and Public Works New Home

Before meeting with neighborhood residents of the Tabor Drive area, DPW Director Art Baker talks frank about the chosen potential future home of the new facility.

Nestled on 10 acres in the middle of 77 acres off of Tabor Drive is where the Branford  has selected to build the new  future home of the . Currently, the DPW is housed at , in a leased temporary facility that has often been called cramped by visitors and employees.

Though about for the new facility, Tabor, , was selected by the building committee as the best possible site. , the group determined that building a new facility to the tune of $11 million on land taken by eminent domain .

The number two choice was 20 Northeast Industrial Rd., which ultimately did not win out. Though the committee has publically committed to the Tabor Drive spot, with engineering firm  Weston & Sampson working on plans, some people are still hopeful that other parcels will be considered. The town has not officially ruled on the matter.

Tonight, Public Works Director Art Baker along with the building committee he is a member of, will meet with area residents and concerned citizens at  to discuss the move.

We had a chance to sit down with Baker during our last week to ask him some questions about the proposed move.  A new resident to Toole Drive also joined us, concerned about the traffic on her road, which is across from Tabor Drive. Baker, unabashed, answers this and more.

Branford Patch: Let’s talk about the potential for increased traffic to and from Tabor Drive as a result of Public Works having the new facility there.
Art Baker:
When debris was being hauled from the Fire Department  [during construction] there were trucks every 10 minutes delivering for three weeks – two trucks an hour, 16 to 18 loads a day, 4,000 yards. If people didn’t notice that traffic, they’re certainly not going to notice our traffic.  The thing people may notice is, that in a snow storm when we have a full fleet out – 20 trucks – they would be coming back to fill up with salt. It might be a back-up alarm [onto South Montowese Street]. If you look at the proposed building location of Tabor it’s out in the middle. It’s not anywhere close to the houses.

Branford Patch: If someone missed your recent walk through Tabor Drive how can they see the site?
Art Baker: I would be more than happy to drive somebody through there if they are very interested, especially someone who lives in the area.  [Call or e-mail Art Baker: 203-488-4156 or abaker@branford-ct.gov]

Branford Patch: After the recent walk through of Northeast industrial Road, the current, temporary facility and Tabor Drive, are you comfortable saying that the Public Works Building Committee is still committed to building on Tabor?
Art Baker: The committee is definitely committed to Tabor Drive. We chose that site over other sites for many reasons. One being space and logistics – there are much more efficient operations over there. As I told people when we walked through the Northeast Industrial site, ‘It works, but so does the place we are in now.’ It’s working but it’s a struggle – it’s cramped. The Northeast Industrial site has known contamination. We’d own that liability for all the years to come even though they have to clean it up. Will they get it all? Will they get under the concrete slab in the back building? Those are all the questions...

Branford Patch: What kind of contamination is present?
Art Baker: A long chemical…18-letters-long. They washed out trucks that had chemicals in them. The wash went through pipes underground to a little chemical treatment facility and the pipes underground broke so all those chemicals went into the ground. The owner is obligated to clean it up before he sells the property.

Branford Patch: Comparing that contamination with the contamination at Tabor, is it apples to apples?
Art Baker: No, definitely not. At the Northeast Industrial site we have known contamination. At Tabor we have potential contamination. We’ve been monitoring it for many, many years but because we’re next to a landfill there’s always the potential of contamination. All those potentials can be planned for and designed for in the planning of the new building.

Branford Patch: Who else would want to go to Tabor besides Public Works?
Art Baker: It’s more for industrial or passive recreation use but as Weston & Sampson, our engineering firm will speak about this at the Public Hearing, there’s buildings built on landfills all the time. I know Hamden just did a library on a brownfield site, so it was a contaminated site.

Branford Patch: So do you feel that the stigma about Tabor has overshadowed the site?
Art Baker: Everyone thinks that Public Works is a negative trucking industry that they correlate to 20 years ago there when in fact, if you look at the site and the future potential development of it, with some ball fields and some other things that the town needs, you can make it a big campus. You’ve got beautiful views for passive recreation, you have the pond where the Greenway Trail runs – Chet’s Pond.

Branford Patch: Northeast Industrial, apart from the contamination, people seem to think that it’s a pretty viable option. In your opinion, can you put the facility you want there?
Art Baker: I can’t put the facility I want there but we can put a facility that is a definite upgrade from where we are now. Besides the contamination, you have the 100-year flood plain line, which comes up to the building so that’s a concern. That also does not allow us to building anything in that area and thats what we’re talking about with logistics and efficiency.

Branford Patch: Flooding… Tabor has flooding too right?
Art Baker: There’s no flooding over there for us. The Tabor Drive road, we are proposing to raise and elevate any flooding. Whether Tabor gets developed or not, that road needs to be raised.

Branford Patch: Ideally, if you could have any property, would you pick Tabor?
Art Baker: Yeah, at this point in time, with what I know today, it’s such a big site and there are so many options and the future expansion if necessary.

Branford Patch: Will putting Public Works there encourage the town to keep developing the property with ball fields, ect…?
Art Baker: I think so. I think we’d be phase one of a master plan. I know Alex Pallizzi has already done some plans for ball fields and I think the town needs it. I think it’s a large parcel of land that we can utilize to solve a lot of town problems.

Branford Patch: How do you respond to the argument that leasing is a cheaper option than building a new facility?
Art Baker: It’s not sustainable. It’ like looking at purchasing a house verses renting a house. You want an asset that’s yours that you can control. That said… is it cheaper to lease? That’s something that the Board of Finance will take a look at. But when it’s all said and done, when the term of the lease is up, what do you have? You have nothing. We want to find a place that is environmental sound for us so we meet all the latest regulations for codes such as washing trucks so there’s an oil-water separator; having a permanent salt shed. Our temporary shed up at the transfer station allows water to come in and out of it. We don’t have any floor drains so that’s a major concern. 

Branford Patch: Do the plans for the new facility incorporate state code compliance that’s currently not being met?
Art Baker: The new facility would be up to date facility that meets every code that’s out there. There’s been some criticisms about us storing trucks outside… you know, ‘Why don’t you store some trucks outside to reduce the square footage and save some money?’ But I came from a place where we didn’t store them outside but we stored them in cold barn where we had to plug the trucks in and it was very unreliable. There was a chance for fire and the electric bill goes up tremendously. I think if you talk to anyone in the state who is currently storing trucks outside, they will tell you that it’s an absolute nightmare for them; sometimes response time is affected.

Branford Patch: Does the Northeast Industrial site have indoor storage for trucks?
Art Baker: It does. In both options that we are proposing it would be adding on to the existing and building another structure as well that would house all our equipment indoors.

Branford Patch: Are you considering the old Freightliner site near the exit 56 truck stop?
Art Baker: Freightliner was a place that was submitted – responded to the RFP – but number one, the purchase price was very high, $9.5 million, and we still would have to do a lot of renovations. I have to be honest – I’m not big on taking a property off the tax role in today’s economy. Five years from now when the economy starts booming again and we can have major retail in the spot or major tax-generating revenue for us, I don’t think that’s too wise.

Branford Patch: Getting gas from the truck stop… is that practical?
Art Baker: I’ve had this conversation with many people. The truck stop, during the hurricane, they ran out of fuel. If we ever ran out of fuel, we’d be in some deep trouble. They don’t have generator, number one. They do have a policy that they get one within 24 hours but we couldn’t go 24 hours without fuel. When you can’t control your fuel supply, it’s just one more liability that you have that could be drastic in the event of an emergency. During the hurricane we were using 3,500 gallons of fuel a day; right now we only have a 4,500-gallon tank so we had to get deliveries every single day. That’s why we are proposing the bigger tank  – the 10,000-gallon tank. But again, if the fire department considers adding a tank to their facility if they have some money left over at the end and they can do that, that will take a lot of heat off of us putting in a bigger tank and we can probably get by with our existing diesel tank.

Branford Patch: Are there plans for more public interaction at the facility?
Art Baker: There are programs that we can consider down the road. I’ll give some examples: Christmas tree pick-up. I know right now the Boy Scouts do it and I certainly would not want to step on their toes – it’s a revenue generator for them and helps them support their programs. A bulky waste pick-up is another one to consider. But these things cost money.

Branford Patch: Did you ever expect to come into so much when you took this job in the fall of 2010? You faced snowstorm after snowstorm then Irene and now this potential move to the highly controversial Tabor site?
Art Baker: I certainly didn’t understand the history of Tabor Drive; that’s for sure. Let’s put it that way. I never thought fulfilling a need of the community would be met with such resistance by so many people. I think everyone understands that we need a new facility and I think if everybody continues to communicate and remain professional; questions the cost, questions the size of the building… I don’t have problems trying to justify those things. I don’t have a problem working with the community to make any necessary compromises in order to get the facility just as long as it still meets our needs.  All this negative talk about the history… the history is gone; there’s really nothing we can do to change it so now it’s how can we proceed forward to best suit the community and the town both from a needs and a financial standpoint? 

Joe March 17, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Ask the men who plow your streets, pave the road, sweep the streets, maintain the storm drainage, etc. They are hard working men who make a decent wage, but barley $50k a year, which I know my family would have have trouble making it on tha. They will tell you that they came from one s***hole (North Main) to another (Rt. 139), and now they are looking at yet another (Rt. 139). Lets not be a low rent town, lets invest in a facility on an adequate property that the this community deserves. We should be a top notch community, lets act like one.
Wayne Cooke March 17, 2012 at 05:31 AM
Want a top notch community, Joe? Start with the dishonesty and corruption in Town Hall.
Dr. Alfred C. Whitehead March 18, 2012 at 11:29 AM
Wayne... what are the reasons (in your opinion) that the Town favors Tabor over Northeast Industrial Road? What would be their motivation?
jeff March 18, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Hey Doc,good luck trying to get inside this guys head,just say'in.........
Wayne Cooke March 18, 2012 at 10:37 PM
DaRos wants to "justify" the twenty million dollars he spent on the property.

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