Town Highway Garage, up-close and personal

17 Jan

I found myself the other day in a spot I never would have expected: face-to face with a 15-ton snowplow.

Actually, to be more accurate, I was face-to-face with MANY snowplows, parked so close together that I had to do some fancy maneuvering to get through and around them. The occasion was my recent tour of the Town of Webster Highway Garage on Picture Parkway, which I took to learn more about the plans Webster has to expand the current facility, which has become outdated and too small.

My visit early last week was the first in a series of tours the town is offering to community residents interested in getting a close-up look at the current facility’s condition and first-hand information about the Highway Facility Modernization Project. My tour guide was Webster’s Superintendent of Highways Supervisor Patrick Stephens, who walked me (and two other town residents) through the facility’s current equipment and materials storage buildings, the administration offices and the salt barn. On the way, he pointed out several specific instances of the buildings’ poor condition, like crumbling support beams and outdated electrical equipment.

The physical condition of the property aside, it became very clear during the tour that there simply is no longer enough room for all of the town’s equipment to be safely stored. As the town grew, administrators tried to keep up with the addition of new and much bigger equipment by adding onto the existing buildings bit by bit, to the detriment of efficiency. So right now, the main truck fleet is parked in multiple buildings, and are angled in, double-stacked and cross-parked one in front of another just to fit them all. In the main storage building, the trucks are parked nose-to-nose, which requires complicated maneuvers around other trucks, and backing out of narrow doorways to get out. Space is at such a premium that a lot of equipment is stored outside, unprotected from the elements.

The drivers do what they need to do, and have become rather adept at playing what amounts to a shifting-squares puzzle. But, “We’d like to spend our time on other things rather than being good at jockeying things around,” Patrick said.

A third consideration for replacing the current building are the staff facilities. Originally designed to accommodate a staff of 18, the break room, kitchen, small restrooms and limited locker space now must serve a full-time staff of 40, plus seasonal staff. The new facility would include separate men’s and women’s locker rooms, larger bathrooms and a break room that would comfortably and safely accommodate 50 to 55 staff members.

As he conducted our tour, Patrick patiently answered all of the questions I had, no matter how ignorant I thought they sounded. But that was exactly what the tours are all about, Patrick said.

The purpose of the tours is to give as much information to the community as possible at the beginning of this process, in as many first-hand, face-to-face meetings as possible. …  Once we get into the budget process, a lot of people will have concerns. We want as many people as possible to understand why (we need a new building), that it’s not just for convenience.  

When we say ‘need,’ they understand what that need is.

The final design plans are mostly complete, but some financial details still need to be hammered out. Town officials hope to be able to present a preliminary cost proposal to the Town Board in February. In the meantime, community members are encouraged to learn more about the project by signing up for one of the half-hour tours. They’re offered two or three times a week through March 3. They’re a half hour long, and are limited to ten participants, 18 and over. The Town Highway Garage is located at 1005 Picture Parkway, off of Hard Rd.

If you can’t attend one of the in-person tours, you can watch a virtual online tour here.

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(posted 1/17/2023)

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