Town, schools break ground on shared garage

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WINDHAM — Town and school officials came together Tuesday evening for an official groundbreaking at the site of the new shared vehicle maintenance facility.

“The new facility, the building and the improvements around it, are designed to meet the needs of the community today and into the future,” Town Manager Tony Plante said to the group largely made up of of town councilors, school officials, Windham Public Works employees, engineers and construction professionals.

Work on the site began May 31 with some clearing and excavation work, and Plante said the building’s footings could be poured within a matter of days.

The crowd watching the June 26 groundbreaking consisted of two reporters and the town’s Fire Chief.

The Windham Public Works Department and RSU 14 plan to share space in the new 23,400 square foot facility, which will be owned by the town and leased by the school district.

Plante and Windham-Raymond Superintendent of Schools Sanford Prince said Tuesday that the lease has not yet been finalized.

The plan for the school district to contribute to the building’s cost has caused some consternation among Raymond municipal officials, who have taken steps to begin exploring the withdrawal from RSU 14.

Windham Town Council Chairwoman Donna Chapman said the talk about Raymond possibly leaving the school district “saddens me a little bit” and hoped Raymond would look closely at the financial implications of withdrawal.

“I think Raymond should really look at the bigger picture,” Chapman said, noting that the school district has a longstanding lease to use space at the existing Windham Public Works building. “We needed a newer facility, and it’s here.”

Windham voters approved a $9.3 million bond for the project in November 2017, and the Windham Town Council voted in April to award the building contract to Great Falls Construction of Gorham.

Plante told the council Tuesday night that the project has encountered an unexpected hurdle indirectly related to ongoing international trade disputes, specifically steel and aluminum tariffs instituted by President Donald Trump’s administration that are being countered by the European Union.

The changes in the steel and aluminum market have caused an increase of work for one of the project’s suppliers, Plante said, as more prospective customers are deciding to move forward with projects now because of future uncertainties in the market.

Plante said the supplier predicted a nearly 60-day delay, but that the town, project engineers and Great Falls have been “continuing to work on an alternatives” that would tweak how building is assembled in order avoid the delay.

“It will be what the people voted for, it will be what was approved,” he added, saying that as of now, he does not currently think possible changes would result in “any significant cost difference.”

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

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