DANNEMORA - The construction of a new highway department garage in the town of Dannemora is almost complete one year after a devastating fire destroyed the former garage.
America "Ves" Pivetta, who assumed the role of town supervisor Jan. 1, 2010, was on his first day on the job when fire destroyed the Town Garage Road structure near Chazy Lake.
"It burned everything," recalled Pivetta.
The process to replace the former garage - a circa 1961 Quonset hut - and the approximately $1 million worth of equipment inside was a long one, said Pivetta. Three snowplows and a front-end loader were destroyed, leading the town to purchase new ones to replace them.
"The three new snowplows were $166,000 a piece and the front-end loader was about $121,000," said Pivetta. "After studying the situation, we didn't try to get used equipment. We brought in new equipment because we wanted equipment that wouldn't break down."
"If you buy used equipment, it can cost way more money in parts and labor to keep it running rather than purchasing new ones," added Pivetta.
The cost to build the new 90 sq. ft by 120 sq. ft. building was $2 million, funded partly by $400,000 provided by insurance coverage on the former building, said Pivetta. The town council moved forward an increase in the town tax levy in November and moved forward with taking out two loans, at 30 years and 20 years, respectively, to cover the remainder of the cost.
"We had to do what we did," said Pivetta.
The council stopped short with plans to move the town offices to the new building, however, space was still allotted in the event the idea is brought forth in the future, said Pivetta. The idea was to not put any further burden on taxpayers by adding more to the project, the supervisor added.
"We're letting the office part go for now, until we see what the future brings," said Pivetta.
The highway department garage is roughly three-quarters complete, said Pivetta, with much of the exterior work such as siding, curbing and landscaping complete.
Highway Superintendent Howard "Pete" Barber said while the building is totally assembled, components for fire suppression and alarm systems are still on order and will need to be installed before crews can occupy the space. This week, the highway department was awaiting crews from New York State Electric and Gas and AmeriGas to connect power and install a temporary gas furnace until a "state-of-the-art" wood burning furnace is installed, said Barber.
Though ground was broken for the building in July, the construction process has been slowed by having to wait on parts and issues with contracts - not to mention inclement weather.
"Mother Nature has kind of beat us up a bit," he said.
In the meantime, the highway department has been working out of a temporary job trailer and leaving its vehicles outside, which has caused worry for Barber.
"It's hard on the hydraulic systems. Not really a good situation, but we're making do by plugging them in and keeping the engines warm," he said. "It's been a little taxing on the men, but they've survived. A little cold on some days, but we're alive."
Though town officials are looking toward a March 1 move-in date. Barber said the wait won't be so bad thanks to the help of neighboring highway departments.
"The Clinton County Highway Association is the best. We're part of one of the strongest associations in New York State," said Barber. "Everyone's been great about wanting to lend a hand."
Pivetta said most of all, it'll be worth the wait.
"It's going to be a beautiful building for the people of Dannemora to enjoy for generations," said Pivetta.
ON THE COVER: Dannemora Town Supervisor America "Ves" Pivetta stands in front of the new 90 sq. ft by 120 sq. ft. building built for the town's highway department. The town lost the previous building to fire last year on New Year's Day.
Photo by Jeremiah S. Papineau\