April 23, 2007
MIDDLEBURY — Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) is exploring the possibility of building a new headquarters near the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s District 5 garage off Creek Road in Middlebury.
Officials at ACTR — the county’s public transportation provider — said their quest for a new facility is being driven by the fact that their current digs on Boardman Street can no longer accommodate the organization’s workforce of nine administrative staff, 13 bus drivers and more than 30 car/van drivers.
“We’ve just outgrown this space,” ACTR Executive Director James Moulton said, as he surveyed the crowded, 1,000 square feet of rented space his organization currently occupies in Addison County Community Action Group’s (ACCAG) community services building.
“We’ve grown to a point where we need a different solution.”
ACTR is currently cleaning out a storage closet to make way for a new hire. All 13 of the organization’s buses must currently be parked outdoors, making them vulnerable to weather damage while taking up scarce parking spots at the community services building.
“Obviously, the growth that ACCAG has sustained during the past seven or eight years has put them in a bind in trying to manage the transportation needs of Addison County in such a small facility,” said Dean George, an ACTR board member and Middlebury selectman.
With that in mind, ACTR officials successfully applied for a grant last year to hire consultants to study the organization’s space needs and propose a solution.
After months of study, the consultants — Parsons and Bannon Engineering — released an extensive report this past winter. The consultants determined:
• ACTR’s needs should be met in a 20,000-square-foot facility, of which 8,000 square feet should be set aside for vehicle storage. The remaining space would be reserved for vehicle maintenance and administrative functions.
“When you get beyond 10 vehicles, it gets to a point where it’s worthwhile having your own mechanic and workspace,” said Moulton, who noted ACTR currently has its vehicles maintained by local service stations.
• The best location for the new facility would be at the site of the Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) District 5 garage on Creek Road, south of the center of Middlebury. The consultants estimated ACTR will need 1.25 acres for its new facility, with 35 parking spots for staff and visitors, along with a two-bay fueling station for buses.
Other sites considered by consultants included the W. Holdman Inc. site at 202 Mainelli Road; and one of the vacant lots within Middlebury’s industrial park off Exchange Street.
Consultants picked the AOT site because it would not result in property being taken off the town’s tax rolls; is close to ACTR’s service routes; and would pair two similar agencies (ACTR and the AOT) on one site.
“They are a natural partner for us,” Moulton said of the AOT. “For public transportation to be successful in the future, (partnership) will be essential.”
Moulton noted AOT officials have already agreed to discuss a land-lease arrangement to accommodate an ACTR facility, roughly estimated to cost between $3 million and $3.3 million.
ACTR and AOT officials will apply for a grant from the Federal Transit Administration to cover 80 percent of the project costs. Another 10 percent would be sought from the state, while ACTR would seek the balance through a capital campaign.
“We’ve seen tremendous support from the community so far, and we hope to get that same support to put a new facility in place,” said Moulton.
Officials point to steady growth in services and ridership as evidence that county residents would back a new ACTR facility. During the past five years, ACTR has grown from a $700,000 operation to $1.4 million. The organization provided 68,000 rides in fiscal year 2002, a number that is projected to top 115,000 rides by the end of fiscal year 2007, according to Moulton. Routes offered by ACTR include the Middlebury shuttle; the Tri-town Shuttle (serving Middlebury, Bristol and Vergennes); the Snow Bowl Shuttle; and services from Middlebury to Burlington and Middlebury to Rutland. The organization also helps qualifying citizens needing rides to critical appointments, such as to physicians’ offices.
“Demand from the public has caused us to grow,” Moulton said. “We have reached a point where we need to look at the next level of facility to support our operation.”
Moulton said he hopes to appear before the Middlebury Development Review Board later this spring to discuss ACTR’s plans.