Tupper electric department to get new garage

The roof sags from rusted-through beams over Tupper Lake’s village municipal electric department garage. The 52-year-old garage is being replaced and will be demolished when a new building is finished. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

TUPPER LAKE — The village board is moving toward getting a new garage and office building for the municipal electric department in 2020, right behind its current building, which is rusting apart.

Department Superintendent Marc Staves said the current building, built in 1967, is 30 years past its life expectancy, and it shows.

“It doesn’t take much more than a layman to walk through there and go, ‘Oh my God,'” Staves said.

Staves said the building, which holds the bucket trucks, line equipment and offices for the electric department, Department of Public Works and highway department, is rusting through, posing a threat of collapsing and also losing money every year.

“When I started here 30 years ago, the night that I was hired I was told we were going to get a new building,” Staves said.

Village board Trustee Clint Hollingsworth said a lack of follow-through has kept the building from happening until now. Staves added that a lack of continuity on the village board can make projects get shuffled around in priority.

“Our financial situation now is in really good shape,” Hollingsworth said.

The department has spent around $25,000 on surveys and consulting so far, and Staves said he will have an estimated overall cost in the next few weeks. The department has “substantial reserves” that Staves said it will use as a down payment on the project, borrowing the rest of the cost. The project will be funded from the money the department collects from the sale of electricity.

Architectural renderings of the new building were created by Scott Bova from the Rochester-based MRB Group. The new building will be 15,000 square feet compared to the current 9,000. Staves said the department has bigger trucks and equipment than it did years ago and has added a bucket truck.

A poorly supported roof hangs uneasily over all this expensive equipment, and Staves said with every snowfall he wonders in the back of his mind if “today is the day” the roof caves in.

Hollingsworth pointed out that if a snowstorm caused the building to fall, burying the trucks and equipment, it would most likely be when they would be most needed for electric recovery.

“We’ve got steel beams out front that support the eaves structure that are, without exaggeration, rusted through completely. It’s just a matter of time before they collapse,” Staves said. “Basically the only thing that’s saved it from collapsing under snow load is that there’s so much heat loss through the roof it melts the snow.”

The building also has poor insulation and a leaky roof.

Staves said that trying to salvage the building would cost more than it is worth. The department will continue to operate out of it while the new building is being built, and after it moves out, the structure will be demolished and the land may be reconstituted as a green area.

Staves said he hopes to go out to bid for the project by the end of January, breaking ground as soon as possible in the spring. He said construction should take around 18 months.

Village Mayor Paul Maroun said the board is behind the project and is anticipating it moving forward quickly.

“This building, when it’s built — and I assume it’s going to be built — will be paid for out of the rate structure that we have in place now,” Maroun said.

Maroun said that the rate increase that was approved by the village board and power authority in 2014 included the cost of the new building. This rate change increased the residential electric rate by 22.6 percent for the first 1,500 kilowatt hours of usage, adding a 5.6 percent ($223,129), revenue increase to the municipal electric department, bringing the total revenue up to $4,235,118.