GROTON -- With the logjam of local permitting and approval reviews finally removed, the long anticipated construction of the Groton Electric Light Department's new office/garage complex began earlier this summer.
By all the evidence, it has proceeded quickly toward conclusion early in the new year.
"I'm very happy with the progress being made on the complex," said GELD manager Kevin Kelly of the building rising off Station Avenue. "It's moving along very nicely."
With ground broken in June, the land was quickly cleared by employees of Methuen-based New England Builders and Contractors and a concrete pad poured. Within days, it seemed, a wooden frame rose over the pad and soon after that, the metal skeleton of the garage portion followed.
Currently, the office portion is enclosed and efforts proceeding apace so that electricians, plumbers and drywallers can work indoors as temperatures fall and the season grows late.
In fact, construction has proceeded so fast over the past several weeks that the project seemed to be glitch-free.
"There have been no problems so far in the construction phase," confirmed Kelly. "No major surprises."
Kelly added that the project presented no unusual challenges for builders and as a result, he expects the new building to be ready for a ribbon-cutting ceremony by spring.
At just over $4 million, the project turned out to be slightly more expensive than planners intended.
"It's more than we wanted to spend but it was the best we could do after all of the delays and challenges in getting the project off the ground," said Kelly.
As approved, GELD's new headquarters complex would be placed on the northerly end of the department's Station Avenue property and constructed as a pair of buildings set adjacent to each other for easy access by administrators and line workers.
The office building section is to be a single floor of 5,000 square feet and to include a large conference room that can be used by other town boards and committees in addition to GELD staff.
With a height of 30 feet at the peak of the garage portion, the vehicle stalls will have at least 20 feet of clearance will consist of five major vehicle bays and two smaller bays.
The complex will have dual access to Station Avenue with one on the northerly side giving on to some modest employee parking and the other intended for service vehicles and trucks only with enough off street driveway area for them to turn around and back up into bays without using the street.
According to Kelly, the construction schedule is expected to yield a temporary occupancy permit for February and a permanent one after landscaping features are completed shortly thereafter.
Currently, much of the department's equipment and supplies are stored outdoors but the manager said that would change after the new building is completed with most of the material to be removed elsewhere.
"There will be a small rack for four poles on site here but most of the outside storage will be moved to the substation on Lowell Road," reported Kelly.
An important factor to the project will be the question of what to do with the old garage building and the view from the rail trail beyond.
"There will be some vegetative screening between the new complex and the old garage next door," assured Kelly. "But once we vacate the garage, we'll be doing an RFP to try and determine the future of what will be going on that site. We're mostly concerned about recovering our investment in the Downs parcel."
The Downs parcel, located to the north of GELD's Station Avenue property, was purchased by the department in order to site the new building as far as possible from the current garage.
Kelly declined to say what might be done with the old garage building once the lot was sold. In the past, town officials had hoped to develop Station Avenue for mixed use commercial/office/residential space. For that reason, a special downtown overlay district was created, including the Station Avenue neighborhood, allowing for an enterprising developer to make positive use of the area.
"I'm just happy to see the project finally underway," said Kelly. "Basically, it's going to bring our facility up to current building codes and provide us with a new, adequate facility for the next 50 years."