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Derry transfer station project hits snag

Union Leader Correspondent

January 19. 2014 9:40PM

DERRY — As the projected cost of a planned transfer station has soared, officials are trying to find a way to build it within its $3 million budget.

Public Works Director Michael Fowler updated town councilors on the project in a meeting earlier this month.

The proposed transfer station was approved as part of the 2013 fiscal year budget, and a $3 million bond was issued for the facility, which is planned to enhance recycling.

Plans call for recyclables, such as aluminum and glass, to be separated at the new transfer station, providing more potential revenue for the town, Fowler said.

Massachusetts-based Kleinfelder Engineering was hired to create the design for the project.

Derry has outgrown the old transfer station that was built in 1980, Fowler said. Residents are encountering delays, especially on Saturdays, Fowler said.

A new facility would provide for more parking spaces and speed up trash disposal. The design also calls for more levels than the old facility to improve efficiency.

“One of the big things we’ve tried to do with this design is to make it so that the average customer experience on a Saturday, when it’s very, very busy, is not a 15-minute wait,” Fowler said.

Plans call for the facility to have ample parking and good traffic flow, with about 40 parking spaces, Fowler said.

A new site for the proposed facility has been selected on the current transfer station property and must be prepared for construction, Fowler said. The work will include removing fill material from the site.

But to build the facility at the new site, additional preparation work and materials such as concrete will be needed, Fowler said. These factors are driving up the projected cost, Fowler said.

Fowler has been working with the engineering team on the design to stay within the project’s budget, but the process has been frustrating at times.

“What we are struggling with is the size of the facility and the cost,” Fowler said.

As a result, the design has been revamped and the size of the planned building has been reduced from 22,000 square feet to 17,000 square feet.

But this still wasn’t enough to stay within the budget, so the building’s planned size was reduced again to the latest figure of 10,000 square feet.

Site work is running way over budget, and is now estimated at between $3 million and $4 million alone, Fowler said.

“We are still trying to knock that cost down,” Fowler said.

During the meeting, Councilor Brad Benson questioned Fowler on a cost estimate of $300 per square foot to build the facility.

“That number seems astronomical to me,” Benson said.

Working with the engineering firm, Fowler said he hopes to overcome the site work cost and for the project to begin in the spring.

“I wish we were a little further along, but sometimes that’s the reality,” Fowler said. “I wouldn’t put a project out irresponsibly that was going to bid for double what we had for available funds.”

If the costs can’t be reduced, Fowler said the project could be brought back to the council for further discussion. It is possible the council could vote to nix it, but he thinks that is unlikely to happen as it is still extremely early in the process.

“We are nowhere near that point,” Fowler said.

If the project was halted, Fowler said, it should be noted that the town would then be left with the old transfer station building, which has some structural deficiencies.

“So, if we were to stay in that, there are some costs that would be incurred,” he said.

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