WINDHAM — Construction has started on a new shared vehicle maintenance facility to house the Windham Public Works Department and buses from the Windham-Raymond School District.
Windham Town Manager Tony Plante said contracts for the building were signed last week and construction — which is currently limited to clearing and excavation — began on May 31.
The Town Council voted 6-1 in April to award the more than $8 million contract to Great Falls Construction of Gorham.
The town received state and local approval for the 23,400-square-foot project last week, securing sign-offs from both the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Windham Planning Board.
The Planning Board voted 5-0 to approve the facility during a special meeting last Wednesday. Board Chairman David Douglass recused himself because he was part of the town committee that worked on the project’s planning, and board member Bill Walker abstained from the vote.
Board member Griffin Bourassa was absent, and board alternate Michael Devoid participated in the vote.
The board had been waiting on MDEP approval, which came in a notification dated May 22.
Will Haskell of engineering firm Gorill Palmer explained to the board how plans for the facility fueling station were changed in order to move it farther from the nearby Pleasant River and an unnamed stream.
“We basically shifted it about as far away as we can get from either resource,” Haskell said last week.
“Thank you, I like that plan a lot better,” Walker responded.
Windham voters approved a $9.3 million bond for the facility last fall. The Windham-Raymond RSU 14 plans to lease space at the facility for its buses, as it does at the current Windham Public Works building.
Raymond municipal officials have raised concerns about the garage and the cost to Raymond taxpayers through their contribution to the school district. Raymond did not vote on the bond for the facility, because the garage will be owned by the town of Windham with space leased by the school district.
Raymond Selectboard Chairwoman Teresa Sadak said that is one of the reasons she has initiated a petition for the town to withdraw from the school district, referring to what she called “needless spending and not adhering to a cost-sharing” agreement.
Under the existing RSU 14 cost-sharing agreement for Windham and Raymond, each town is responsible for capital costs at school facilities within that town. However, RSU 14 officials argue that the agreement does not apply to the shared garage because the building will be owned by Windham with space leased by the district.
Maine state education statute defines major capital costs as school construction projects and specifies that a school construction project does not include “the lease-purchase of bus garage and maintenance facilities.”
Plante said the town of Windham and the school district are “still working out the final terms of the lease.”
Plante said there will be two phases of construction for the new facility, which will be on the same 185 Windham Center Road property as the current garage but not in the same location on that property.
The first phase, to finish the new building so that it can be moved into, is slated to be done by the end of the calendar year, he said.
The second phase to remove the current building and finalize site work is projected to be done next summer.
“We’ve had people ask why not keep the existing building, but the site won’t work with it where it is,”Plante said. “It has served the town well for the last 40 years; we expect the new one to do at least that.”
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
Work has started for the new shared vehicle maintenance facility in Windham.
Construction has started on the new shared vehichle maintenance facility in Windham.
Construction has started on the new shared vehicle maintenance facility in Windham.