NORTHBOROUGH – For months earlier this year, Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School students helped build a new building for the Northborough Water Department on School Street in town.
Last month, the town held a “thank you” lunch for the students to show their gratitude for their help.
Department of Public Works Director Scott Charpentier said they plan to move all of their operations into the building, including computer and security stations, quick response vehicles, the supervisor’s office and a shower.
The existing Water Department building will be renovated, being used as a storage space and as a workshop area.
As Charpentier explained it, the Water and Sewer Departments have expanded “quite a bit.”
The building was originally designed for the Water Department. But the Sewer Department was added to town operations in the 1960s, eventually outgrowing the old building.
So, the DPW wanted to build a new building.
Charpentier said that every dollar spent on the project was paid for by the water and sewer ratepayers.
“Our customers built this with their rate payments,” Charpentier said.
As a result, the department wanted to keep the cost of the project as low as possible.
Under a conventional process, Charpentier estimated the project cost at $1.5 million or more. Town Meeting, instead, approved $900,000 for the project.
Charpentier spoke with House Carpentry Teacher Wayne Coulson, who said the school was looking for a project that involved all of the trades.
Charpentier had a job for the students.
“How would you like to go inside a metal building the entire school year and just do everything,” Charpentier recalled asking.
Assabet staff jumped at the opportunity.
The work involved students from a number of disciplines.
“For us, it’s a win-win because I think it’s a great move for them and it’s a great move for us to be able to give these kids this type of experience,” Electrical Wiring Teacher Al Maino said.
Coulson said the students have done residential and light commercial work. But this project was a mix between residential framing in a commercial situation.
The benefit of this project was “huge,” Coulson said, adding that they couldn’t duplicate this work in a shop environment.
“When you get out into an environment like this here, it puts all of that knowledge to use … because it’s all real work,” Coulson said. “If we didn’t have this off-campus ability to do this for the community and the towns, our students I think would be missing out on some of that real-hands on experience.”
Charpentier noted that the students will encounter a similar structure when they get into the field.
“It was a good interaction,” Charpentier said. “At the end of the day, it saved the ratepayers $400,000 plus and helped out Assabet Valley Tech and gave the department what they needed.”