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Windsor Pauses Plans for Armory

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 9/26/2018 11:58:17 PM
Modified: 9/26/2018 11:58:51 PM

Windsor — The Selectboard has put the brakes on a plan to take ownership of the old National Guard armory on Ascutney Street and to open a dog park in a fenced-in area behind the building because of unacceptable levels of environmental contaminants, or PCBs, in the paint on the building’s interior walls.

Town Manager Tom Marsh said he has been instructed by the board following Tuesday night’s meeting to discuss with National Guard officials whether they would consider remediation of the contamination.

“The town does not want the responsibility of remediation,” Marsh said on Wednesday.

Marsh said the town had hired a consultant to complete a Phase I environmental review of the property, and when the results came back in the spring they showed PCB levels exceeding 50 parts per million in the wall paint, Marsh said.

“That part was a surprise,” Marsh said. “We expected the Phase I review would have no issues.”

PCBs are chemicals that once were common in coolants and other building components. They have been linked to cancer.

The town next presented that information to the National Guard and requested it perform additional testing on the three layers of paint on the walls.

Marsh said the second report, which was submitted a few weeks ago to the town, showed PCB levels of below 20 ppm, which is better but still too high for unrestricted use of the building by the town.

If the PCB level is in the mid-teens, there can be restricted uses, such as storage and an occasional public use, but signs would need to inform the public of the danger, Marsh said, explaining what the town had been told by the environmental consultant. In order to have unrestricted use, the PCB level cannot exceed 1 ppm, Marsh said.

Although the problem is inside the building, the town also closed down a fenced-in area behind the armory that was being used as a dog park.

The dog park was informally created about a year ago after an open house at the armory. Dog owners began using the area, Marsh said, but the National Guard questioned the use when it discovered the park. The town and the Guard were about to start discussions on how to officially form the park when the initial environmental report was received. At that point, Marsh said, the decision was made to put the dog park on hold until all of the building’s issues are resolved.

Marsh emphasized that the contamination is only on the interior walls of the building, and not on the building’s exterior or on the neighboring fields.

“It is contained inside the building,” Marsh said.

Last year, the town was on a path to take ownership of the armory and a citizen’s committee, which had recommended purchasing the building, was gathering ideas for possible uses for the armory, including a farmers market, concerts, school events or a car show.

The armory was built in 1950 and abandoned by the National Guard seven years ago. It has sat vacant ever since.

Town officials last year said they were certain the building was structurally sound and there were no environmental issues.

If the building could be used in some capacity despite the contamination, Marsh said, the town could face additional repercussions down the road if the contamination is not completely remediated.

He said an armory property in Brattleboro, Vt., cost $3 million to clean up.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.




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