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Highway department moves into new home one year after blaze

Highway Superintendent Howard “Pete” Barber stands inside 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 on New Year’s Day 2010.

Highway Superintendent Howard “Pete” Barber stands inside 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 on New Year’s Day 2010. Photo by Jeremiah S. Papineau.

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Highway Superintendent Howard “Pete” Barber stands next to a new wood-burning furnace in the new town highway department building. The furnace is a new feature that will keep heating expenses down for the town building, said Barber.

— The Town of Dannemora Highway Department finally has a permanent home.

The highway department received its certificate of occupancy and moved into its new building on Town Garage Road last week more than a year after a devastating blaze claimed the former building that housed the department’s offices and vehicles.

Highway Superintendent Howard “Pete” Barber said moving from temporary trailers into the new 90 sq. ft by 120 sq. ft. building has been a long-awaited transition.

“Now, we’ll be able to house our vehicles inside in time for winter,” said Barber, who said leaving the department’s snowplows and other equipment out in the elements has luckily had no impact on them so far.

“It’s also good to keep them out of the sun,” added Barber, who noted sunlight can cause cracking on exposed belts and hoses.

The four-bay building will include ample space for vehicles and equipment, said Barber, including space to perform routine maintenance. The town is hoping to keep energy costs down by utilizing a wood-burning furnace using wood collected and donated by state Department of Transportation crews and the town’s own highway department crews.

The process to replace the former garage — a circa 1961 Quonset hut — and the approximately $1 million worth of equipment inside was lengthy, according to Town Supervisor America “Ves” Pivetta. Three snowplows and a front-end loader were destroyed, leading the town to purchase new ones to replace them for a combined cost of approximately $619,000.

The overall cost to build the new building was $2 million, funded partly by $400,000 provided by insurance coverage on the former building. The town council moved forward with an increase in the town tax levy last November and took out two loans, at 30 years and 20 years, respectively, to cover the remainder of the cost.

Regardless, Pivetta said he’s glad to see the highway department have a formal building it can call home once again.

“It’s been a tough road,” said Pivetta, adding plans to relocate the rest of the town’s municipal offices there are still on hold.

“That part will have to wait until we can get a grant of some kind ... money’s tight with the State of New York,” he added.

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