Transportation facility OK’d in Windham

Windham residents voted Nov. 7 at the high school in favor of a proposed $9.3 million shared vehicle maintenance facility with RSU 14.  

WINDHAM — Voters in Windham have approved the bond for a new vehicle maintenance facility to be shared with the RSU 14 School District.

Windham voters said yes to the $9.3 million proposal 1,948-1,772. The planned new facility would house both Windham Public Works vehicles and vehicles from RSU 14.

With interest on the bond included, the proposal is projected to cost more than $12.8 million.

Windham Public Works Director Doug Fortier said that a new facility could “take the town into the next 40 or 50 years” and that the current facility built in the 1980s in “inadequate.”

“Obviously, I’m appreciative of the vote,” Fortier said Wednesday.

“I’m grateful that voters have recognized the need for the facility,” said Town Manager Tony Plante on Wednesday.

Referenda on similar projects in Windham failed in 1999 and 2015.

The 2015 vote failed 1,110-997 when the price tag for the new facility was more than $7.6 million (not including interest). The town worked to raise awareness about this year’s vote, starting with a press conference in September and including open house events at the current public works facility.

“We did put a lot more time, efforts, and resources into communicating with the public,” Plante said.

He said it was “gratifying” that the efforts to raise awareness about the vote seemed to succeed.

“They’ve convinced me that it’s needed and will be beneficial,” Mindy Schwartz said Tuesday after voting yes.

“I’m all about anything that makes the community a better place,” said Ray Fox, who also voted yes.

Other residents weren’t so convinced.

“They can do something cheaper, in my opinion,” said Dylan Knight after voting no.

Janet Morrell said she agrees that the town needs a new facility, but didn’t think this was the right proposal.

“I just would like to have them be a little more conservative on it,” said Morrell, who voted no.

The proposed 30,000-square-foot facility would be located on the same property as the current facility. It would be about triple the size of the less than 10,000-square-foot existing facility, providing more room to keep vehicles and equipment inside out of the elements, store tools and parts, and offer additional locker room and administrative space.

Plante said the next step will be for the town to put out a design-build package so that contractors and design firms can then bid for the contract. He said the hope is to begin construction in spring of 2018 and complete construction by the fall of 2019.

Plante acknowledged that “there will still be decisions for the council to make,” but when asked if new council, in the wake of Tuesday’s election, could change their minds about the project, Plante said that he’s typically seen councils defer to the will of voters.

“One thing that I’ve seen pretty consistently is respect for voters’ decisions,” Plante said.

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

Windham residents voted Nov. 7 at the high school in favor of a proposed $9.3 million shared vehicle maintenance facility with RSU 14.