New committee formed to help New Gloucester garage move ahead

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The New Gloucester Selectboard has unanimously approved the creation of a construction committee to help oversee the new public works garage project approved by voters at a special town meeting in October. 

NEW GLOUCESTER — The selectboard has unanimously approved the creation of a construction committee to help oversee the new public works garage slated to be built at 611 Lewiston Road.

The board voted 5-0 on Feb. 5 to create the Public Works Building Construction committee, which will include four members of the community and one representative from the selectboard who will also have a vote on the committee.

Town Manager Carrie Castonguay and Public Works Director Ted Shane will serve as staff support on the committee, but will not be able to vote.

“It would be advisory in nature,” Castonguay said Monday night about the committee’s charge. “I envision it meeting monthly, and when things get chugging along, as required.”

Castonguay said it would “serve as a mechanism to provide feedback” on the project and to review and make recommendations on any change orders.

The garage was approved by voters at the Oct. 16 special town meeting 168-138, and the selectboard voted 3-2 on Oct. 23 to authorize Castonguay to sign the contract with Ganneston Construction after a review from the town attorney.

Stacey Morrison, owner of Ganneston Construction, said her company’s contract with the town to build the new public works facility was finalized on Jan. 15. She said Ganneston is now working to finalize the design and start the permitting process.

According to Morrison, those processes can happen somewhat simultaneously and she hopes to have them concluded within four to six months.

She said construction would start “most likely” closer to six months from now.

The board’s unanimous approval of the construction committee represented a shift from previous votes on the new garage project, which had caused some division on the board and within the town, including multiple petition drives, a special town meeting, and a contentious selectboard meeting where audience members had choice words for each other.

Selectboard member Stephen Hathorne, who voted this week to create the construction committee, has continually expressed reservations about the 611 Lewiston Road location for the new garage, while noting his support for the idea of a new facility in general.

While his concerns have not changed, Hathorne said Tuesday, the people have spoken.

“I’m still against it, but the vote of the people voted it through,” he said.

When a petition drive to reconsider special town meeting approval of the project did not get enough valid signatures, a leader of the effort indicated in October that other legal avenues could be considered. However, Hathorne said he thinks that discussion has subsided.

When asked why it took nearly three months to finalize the contract, Castonguay said she and members of the town’s Public Works Design Committee worked with Ganneston to make sure the town gets what it needs in the new building while staying within the project’s projected budget.

According to the warrant passed by voters in October, the 25-year bond for the garage would have a principal of $4.6 million and carry with it almost $1.8 million in interest, bringing the total debt service for the facility to almost $6.4 million.

“We wanted it as near perfect as we could,” Castonguay said about the discussions with Ganneston.

“My concern was just the final numbers,” she added, noting she wanted to avoid a situation where the project required additional funding.

Morrison similarly said her company and the town had been discussing “value engineering” options for the final design in order to balance town financial considerations while “still delivering a quality product to the owner.”

Following the special town meeting where voters approved the new garage, there was controversy surrounding signs put up in town that encouraged people to vote yes on the project.

Morrison and Castonguay confirmed at the time that Morrison purchased the signs, but when asked about allegations that town staff helped put those sign up around town, Castonguay declined to elaborate and called it a personnel matter that “already has been resolved.”

Morrison said this week that the length of time needed to finalize the contract “had nothing to do with the signs.”

“We’re just excited to be moving forward,” Morrison said.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

The New Gloucester Selectboard has unanimously approved the creation of a construction committee to help oversee the new public works garage project approved by voters at a special town meeting in October.

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