New Gloucester voters OK public works garage

Many New Gloucester residents waited in a long line to sign in for Monday night's special town meeting on a proposed new public works garage. 

NEW GLOUCESTER —  Voters approved a plan to build a public works garage at a special town meeting Monday that began with a line at the door and included more than two hours of debate.

New Gloucester residents at the Oct. 16 meeting voted 168-138 to approve a proposal to build the $4.6 million garage and salt and sand shed at 611 Lewiston Road, a location that already includes the town’s Fire and Rescue building.

Town Manager Carrie Castonguay said after the meeting that the town will now move to finalize its agreement with Augusta-based Ganneston Construction to build the facility. She said the permitting process could potentially take six months, and she hopes construction can begin in the early next spring.

Selectman Steven Libby, who served as a Selectboard liaison to the design committee that worked to develop the garage proposal, said he was “very happy” with the outcome.

He also said before the final vote tally that he was pleased with the number of people in attendance, more than 300, which he said was the most he’d seen in the approximately 40 town meetings he has been to over the years.

“I love the turnout – that’s the best part of the meeting,” Libby said.

Bill Kiley, 81, also said he’d never seen a bigger turnout than at Monday’s meeting and he’s lived in town his whole life. Kiley said he voted against the garage proposal because of concerns cost and the location.

Monday night’s debate on the garage proposal almost didn’t happen. Differing opinions about the plan – particularly in regard to the location – delayed the special town meeting, which some town officials initially hoped to hold in September.

The special town meeting was ultimately forced by a citizen’s petition led by a group of self-described “old ladies” after the Selectboard deadlocked this summer in a 2-2 vote over whether to approve the warrant.

One of the petition leaders, Kathleen Potter, said previously that the effort was meant to allow residents to have their voices heard in the garage discussion.

“That’s all that we want, is for people to voice their opinions and vote yes or no,” she said in August.

The two selectmen who voted against the warrant in August, Stephen Hathorne and Joseph Davis, had expressed general support for a new town garage but repeatedly took issue with the 611 Lewiston Road location. Both suggested the current public works garage location, 1036 Lewiston Road, was the better site for the new facility.

“I feel bad for the town of New Gloucester,” said Hathorne after Monday’s vote. “It’s a done deal, unfortunately.”

Hathorne previously signaled his concerns about potential impacts on water quality and traffic safety related to the 611 Lewiston Road location.

“The town spoke,” Davis added. “Or at least part of the town spoke.”

Davis served as a member of the public works design committee before his election to the Selectboard, and became a board liaison to the design committee after his election.

Numerous residents also expressed concerns about the proposal during Monday’s meeting, including its cost and impact on local taxpayers.

According to the warrant, 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 projected debt service for the facility to almost $6.4 million.

The town in August estimated that the tax impact of a $4.6 million bond over 25 years would be an additional 17 cents per $1,000 assessment.

Voters signed off Monday night on drawing some of the project funding from revenue generated by the Pineland Municipal Tax Increment Financing District.

Garage design committee Chairman Jim Fitch rose several times during the meeting to make clarifications about the project and the years-long process that went into it, as did Beverly Cadigan, who served on the committee and also helped lead the effort to collect signatures for the garage petition.

“All of those meetings were noticed and available and open to the public. I don’t believe anybody ever came,” Fitch said. “We held a couple of informational meetings and we had very low turnout. So, I’m happy to see the turnout tonight.”

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

Many New Gloucester residents waited in a long line to sign in for Monday night’s special town meeting on a proposed new public works garage.

New Gloucester residents vote during the Oct. 16 special town meeting on a proposed new public works garage.

Residents line up after hours of debate for the written vote on the proposed new public works garage in New Gloucester.