Perhaps the most significant purpose of the new site will be combining the company’s entire staff under one roof. Currently, the administrative staff is located at an office in Dover, while the mechanics and drivers work at the facility in Wilmington. “We’ve been dysfunctional for 18 years,” said Randy Schoonmaker, general manager of the DVTA. “It’s difficult to have good chemistry with the staff this way, but like any small company, we’re a tight-knit group, and this is really going to cement that for us.”
The new building will be located on Shafter Street on the same property as the DVTA’s current facility. It will feature a bus-washing station that uses recycled water, a mechanics garage, a sign-making shop, and a sewing shop. The new building is designed to look like a traditional barn with red siding and cupolas, to complement the Holstein design of the buses. While the buses will still be stored outside, Schoonmaker said there would be room on the nine-and-a-half-acre site to build a storage barn in the future.
The site is a brownsfield site, which means any disturbed land would need to be paved, built upon, or replaced with six inches of new soil, due to the levels of arsenic in the current soil. When completed, the site will also include a small portion of the Riverwalk Trail, which Schoonmaker said would be dotted with historical markers, to highlight the history of the site, as well as the DVTA.
The DVTA was created and began operation in 1996 with 15 drivers covering Route 100 from Wilmington to Dover.
Eighteen years later, the company has expanded to 33 employees and board members, providing 290,000 rides as far east as Brattleboro, as far north as Wardsboro, and as far south as Readsboro. As the transit authority reaches its third decade of existence, the new building has come to signify the progress made.
“We’ve worked so hard to get to this point, to get the funding and permitting together,” said Schoonmaker. “So it’s a relief and a joy and we’re very lucky to be here.”
Getting here was an uneasy decade and a half for the DVTA. The first study performed on where a new DVTA facility should be located was completed in 1998, while four scope studies and applications for support to the Vermont Department of Transportation were turned down before 2004. The DVTA board was forced to keep going back to the drawing board, and finally decided to apply for 80% state funding, and earmarks through Sen. Patrick Leahy’s office.
After receiving $600,000 of the $3.1 million needed one year, the rest of the funding earmark fell through the following year.
Finally, in 2011, the DVTA was able to persuade the Federal Transit Authority, which prioritizes one major state transit project each year for funding, to support the project. All three of Vermont’s congressional representatives wrote letters of support, and finally, the DVTA could move ahead with its sorely needed and wanted project. “It took a lot of lobbying, nine years of engineering, and three years of design to get to this point,” said Schoonmaker. “It’s just excitement and relief.”
For board president and co-founder of the DVTA Susie Haughwout, breaking ground on the new site is a triumph. “It’s the ultimate fulfillment of my 18 years on the board and 16 years on the project,” said Haughwout. “There were some times that we thought the doors had closed, and there were obstacles that seemed insurmountable, too many to count. But we always got back up, and figured out ways around those obstacles.”
Haughwout also quoted her fellow board member and founder of the DVTA Linda Anelli: “We went forward with our dream, and we’re building ‘A home for the Moover.’”