NEW GLOUCESTER — The Planning Board has signed off on the town’s new public works facility, nearly a year after voters approved a $4.6 million bond proposal for the building.
Town Manager Carrie Castonguay said she hopes for construction to start in November.
The project, including a more than 19,000-square-foot garage and a 12,800-square-foot salt and sand shed, will be located behind the town’s existing Fire & Rescue building at 611 Lewiston Road.
The town unanimously received site plan approval for the project at the Aug. 21 New Gloucester Planning Board meeting, and needs permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection before it can break ground.
“We’re still awaiting the official OK from DEP,” said Town Planner Scott Hastings at the Planning Board meeting.
After the October 2017 special town meeting where voters approved the new facility, which has a projected cost of $6.4 million with interest factored in, Castonguay said she hoped construction could begin in the spring of 2018.
When asked by resident and former Selectboard member Stephen Hathorne about the delay at an Aug. 20 Selectboard meeting, Castonguay cited the MDEP process.
The delay adds to an already protracted and, at times, contentious process behind the new facility. The special town meeting last fall came only after a group of self-described “old ladies” led a petition effort to force the vote, which was delayed after the Selecboard deadlocked 2-2 on whether to hold a special meeting.
Then-Selectboard member Hathorne and current member Joe Davis opposed setting the meeting warrant last summer. They 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.
The contention continued even after voters signed off on the project, with Hathorne and others leading an unsuccessful second petition effort to reconsider the vote.
Castonguay confirmed Monday that Augusta-based Ganneston Construction remains the general contractor for the garage project. The second petition push was driven in part by frustration about Ganneston’s owner purchasing signs before the special town meeting encouraging people to vote yes on the proposal.
Planning Board Chairman Donald Libby, Vice Chairman Erik Hargreaves, and members Rebecca Klotzle and Ben Tettlebaum voted 4-0 at the Aug. 21 meeting to find the town’s application complete and approve the project without a site walk or public hearing.
Libby, whose brother Steven Libby serves as Selectboard chairman and as liaison to the garage building committee, said he was familiar with the property and comfortable moving forward without a site walk or public hearing.
Planning Board members and Castonguay indicated that members of the public have already had opportunities to learn about and weigh in on the project, dating back to informational meetings last summer.
“Everybody is certainly informed and asking about when the heck we’re going to break ground,” Castonguay said during the discussion.
The Planning Board also granted the town several waivers on the garage application, including a requirement that the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District conduct a third party review on erosion control and stormwater treatment. Board members and town staff suggested that such a review would be unnecessary since MDEP is conducting its own review.
The board also had the authority to request a hydrogeological study from the town because part of the project falls within New Glocuester’s Groundwater Protection Overlay District, but chose not to do so.
As part of his opposition to the 611 Lewiston Road location, Hathorne said he was concerned about the traffic safety and groundwater implications of the new facility, saying that he didn’t want to have “tainted water or blood on my hands.”
Hargreaves referenced past concerns about the facility’s impact on groundwater during the Aug. 21 meeting. Project engineer Norman Chamberlain of Walsh Engineering Associates explained that elements in the application’s stormwater pollution prevention plan included paving the floor of the salt shed and area in front of the shed, sealants to prevent leeching, and keeping the area swept on a regular basis.
Chamberlain, who also serves on the New Gloucester Board of Appeals, described the groundwater protection measures at the new facility as “a lot better than what we have” at the current garage.
Hastings said Monday the entire property home to the current public works facility in New Gloucester’s Upper Village falls within the groundwater protection overlay.
Despite the debate about the new garage’s location, the need for an updated facility has been widely recognized.
“We’re on a building right now that was built in 1958,” Public Works Director Ted Shane said last summer. “It’s made of cement cinder blocks that are crumbling around us.”
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.
The New Gloucester Planning Board approved the town’s plan for a new public works garage behind the exisiting Fire & Rescue building on Lewiston Road.