A groundbreaking ceremony last week marked the start of renovation for the Darien Department of Public Works garage, a key facility for the town’s public service and maintenance. The $6.3 million dollar renovation will be overseen by a dedicated building committee under the purview of the Board of Selectmen.

“I don’t know if those folks actually understood what they were getting themselves into, but they do now,” DPW Director Ed Gentile joked during the groundbreaking ceremony. “It was a long process but it was an educating process, for myself along with the group. I think we moved this forward along as best we all could, and I’m proud of that.”

Gentile introduced a preliminary project proposal to the Board of Selectmen in May 2016 citing the deteriorating conditions of the existing garage structure which was originally built in 1956. The building has been updated over the years, including a 1993 expansion to provide storage space for vehicles from DPW, the Department of Parks & Recreation and the Board of Education. However, a feasibility study conducted on behalf of the Department of Public Works highlighted the failing state of the building’s floors and other outdated safety measures, increasing the urgency of the project.

Gentile said the current renovation is designed with a 20 to 25 year outlook and the building structure is expected to have a life expectancy of 50 to 100 years. New garage bays will be added to the complex, adding two bays to each end. The southern addition will contain new office space and a meeting room as well as space for vehicle maintenance and storage. On the northern end, the space would be used for servicing those vehicles.

While some members of the RTM and town residents have criticized the cost and timing of the project, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson described the garage as essential to the town’s operations. With multiple groups of town staff working out of the garage, Stevenson said it highlighted the benefits of consolidated town services.

“The work that they do here; these are the unsung heroes of Darien,” Stevenson said on Thursday. “This building is substandard for the important and often times unsafe work that these fine people do each day.”

Gentile will also have weekly meetings with AP construction, the project’s contractor.

“We’re thrilled to be at this stage of the proceedings,” Bosek said on Thursday. “You have the committee’s commitment to do everything in our power to help Ed and the others in ensuring this is a successful project that can serve the town’s needs for many years to come.”