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Woodstock EMS, school renovations in spotlight at public forums

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/30/2019 10:44:00 PM
Modified: 11/30/2019 10:43:58 PM

WOODSTOCK — Woodstock’s first responders and education leaders this week will unveil plans for multimillion-dollar overhauls of the community’s public-safety complex and its middle-high school.

In the first of back-to-back public forums on Wednesday afternoon, from 1 to 5, emergency services director David Green will lead an open house at the town’s public safety building, showing how and why the department aims, at an estimated cost of $3 million, to renovate the 6,500-square-foot facility and to add 5,000 square feet out back to house fire trucks and firefighters.

And from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Woodstock Union High School and Middle School, the Windsor Central Supervisory Union will lead tours of the facility, built in 1957, and outline the current state of the master plan to replace it for an estimated $68 million.

Green said Saturday that he and his colleagues in emergency services began brainstorming potential solutions when they realized the building itself might be an emergency waiting to happen.

“Our needs are changing and growing,” said Green, who was part-time fire chief until the town named him director of emergency services. “Just one example: We have no sprinklers, no fire alarms.”

Besides freeing up space in the existing building for office space and a dispatch center, the addition out back would provide overnight living space for firefighters and separate the fire trucks’ exhaust fumes from the main offices. The latter is one of several occupational-health problems that a partial “Band-aid” renovation a decade ago failed to fully solve, former fire chief and current Selectboard Chairman Butch Sutherland said Saturday.

Sutherland added that the main building, which started life as a Chevrolet dealership in the 1950s, had plenty of problems due to its origin and its age.

“It has no insulation. The wiring is old. We can’t even add a light bulb to the place,” he said.

Sutherland further insists that Woodstock is overdue to professionalize its services, with first responders ready to go 24/7 rather than being called at home or work.

“We’re an older community with a lot of elderly people who require ambulance service,” the former chief concluded. “It’s a whole different thing than it was 20 years ago. I predicted back then that we’d be here someday.”

While Woodstock’s municipal officials will ask voters to approve a bond issue for the emergency-services facility at Town Meeting in March, the school district is still exploring ways to pay for a new high school and middle school in addition to property taxation. The biggest roadblock has been the Vermont Legislature’s suspension, since 2007, of its program of reimbursing districts for most school-construction projects.

The many needs that educators identified during a three-year study released last spring range from a sprinkler and fire-suppression system, and bathrooms that disabled students and staff can more easliy use, to common areas that would give teachers and students in different classrooms flexibility to work together on interdisciplinary projects.

The school district also will host tours and forums on Dec. 9 from 5 to 6 p.m., and on Dec. 19 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Green said emergency-services would schedule additional information sessions “if anybody at this one thinks we should make any tweaks.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.

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