Construction of the $15.7 million project will continue this winter.

With a good start this fall, work on South Portland’s new multimillion dollar, 63,000-square-foot Municipal Services Facility will continue throughout the winter with substantial completion scheduled for sometime in late 2017.

A groundbreaking for the building, which will house the city’s public works, parks and recreation and transportation departments, was held more than a year ago and voters initially approved a $14 million bond for the project, which also includes a new transfer station and Swap Shop, in 2013.

The total project cost is $15.7 million and Doug Howard, the director of public works, said work is on schedule for a 14-month construction cycle. In addition to the main building, the new Municipal Services site off Highland Avenue also includes an 11,000-square-foot salt and sand storage shed and a 4,500-square-foot equipment storage building.

This fall, preparation on the 12-acre site included the laying of a substantial amount of pavement, erection of both the cold storage and salt shed and pouring the foundation for the administration building. A lot of slope stabilization and removal of sand and loam was also required over the summer before work could get fully under way.

Depending on the weather, construction crews this winter will likely pour the foundation for the maintenance garage and the vehicle storage garage, Howard said. In addition, he expects the walls of the administration building to “go vertical in the next couple weeks.”

The Municipal Services Facility will be built using prefabricated metal buildings, which Howard said would be arriving prior to the holidays. Work on the roof and the interior of the administration building would then be done throughout the winter.

“It’s a big site, with a lot of pavement no doubt,” Howard said, adding that consolidating three departments into one facility is one reason the project is so large and complex. He visits the construction site several times a week to check on the project’s progress and also holds weekly meetings with the contractor, Great Falls Construction of Gorham.

“This new facility is desperately needed,” outgoing Mayor Tom Blake told the Current, adding “we’ve certainly gotten every nickel out of the old facility.” He also visits the construction site weekly and said he’s glad the project, which has been a long time coming, is finally moving forward.

City leaders said in informational materials three years ago, prior to the vote on the bond, that the current public works garage on O’Neil Street was operating out of “cramped, unsafe 1930s and 40s buildings and can no longer keep pace with the needs of our community.”

“The existing municipal facility at O’Neil Street is old, overcrowded, unsafe and run-down,” the city said in its materials. “It’s no longer efficient and is a barrier to service delivery. The new facility we’ve been planning for Highland Avenue offers real advantages that will pay off for South Portland for decades to come.”

Voters were also told that the current facility “is unsafe for municipal employees — with substandard garage bays, low ceilings and no proper vehicle lifts.” However, all that will change with the new Municipal Services building, Howard said, including maintenance bays that are properly ventilated and a separate welding shop.

In addition, city work crews will have proper facilities, including up-to-date locker rooms, break areas and conference rooms. “The building will also be efficient with solar hot water and gas and with central air and heat,” Howard said. The maintenance garage area will have radiant floor heating, he said.

The number of workers at the construction site varies “greatly depending on what is going on,” Howard said, but he expects “to start seeing a lot more people as the first building goes up.”

The city plans to “spruce up the entrance with a nice sign, trees and other plantings,” he said, and trees have already been planted to screen the transfer station and new Municipal Services Facility from the most immediate neighbors.

The city is in the process of creating a new project team to come up with recommendations for the re-use of the current public works garage site, which is located in the heart of the Meetinghouse Hill neighborhood.

The project team’s objective is to come up with two to three ideas for the redevelopment of the site that would be the most compatible with the existing neighborhood, according to Don Gerrish, the interim city manager.

Overall, Howard said, “We’re moving along, and we’re on task. It’s exciting and the public works crew is certainly looking forward to moving up here.”

A closer look

The city of South Portland is seeking volunteers to serve on a project team tasked with making recommendations on a re-use plan for the O’Neil Street public works site. Letters of interest should be mailed to: City of South Portland, c/o City Manager’s Office P.O. Box 9422, South Portland, Maine 04116-9422 or emailed to jreny@southportland.org. All applicants are asked to include their name, address, contact information and statement of qualifications or experience.

 

The 11,000-square-foot salt and sand storage shed is the most prominent feature, so far, of the new Municipal Services Facility in South Portland. Ed Weeks, left, the city’s engineer, speaks with Doug Howard, the public works director, during a recent visit to the project site.

There’s lots of activity going on at the new Municipal Services Facility project site off Highland Avenue in South Portland.

Heavy equipment at work at the new Municipal Services Facility site in South Portland.

Doug Howard, director of public works in South Portland, says construction is on schedule for the new Municipal Services Facility project.