WESTBROOK – A conceptual design for a new multimillion-dollar public works facility was drawn up five years ago. Now, the project is starting to take shape.
The Westbrook Public Services Dept. hopes to drum up support for the overhaul of its site on Saco Street by showing residents around its current building during an open house from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday in recognition of National Public Works Week.
Overcrowding in the 42-year-old building has been a problem since the mid-1990s, said Public Services Department Director Tom Eldridge. That’s when a storage area was turned into a mechanic’s bay because there was nowhere else to service vehicles.
Since then, portions of that and other city buildings have been renovated and repurposed to accommodate the needs of the department.
Having several satellite locations, including a maintenance crew office at Woodlawn Cemetery and another service garage at the former Mechanic Street fire station, isn’t ideal, Eldridge said.
“We’ve been sort of playing musical chairs throughout the city,” he said.
The City Council acknowledged that the department’s facilities were inadequate in 2006, when it authorized the preliminary design. But other expensive construction projects, chiefly the year-old $34 million middle school, took precedence, said Eldridge.
Finally, the public works project “has risen to the top,” he said.
The council earlier this month approved spending $300,000 for Westbrook-based Sebago Technics Inc. to design the facility. A 10-member building committee has been touring area public works departments to get ideas for Westbrook.
Arty Ledoux, deputy director of public services and chairman of the building committee, said the city is awaiting a report from engineers who will determine whether the existing 11,000-square-foot building should be renovated or torn down.
City Administrator Jerre Bryant said the cost of the project is expected to be $8 million to $12 million, depending on whether the existing structure is usable.
Bryant said he hopes to have a completed design and local and state permits by winter. The council would then vote on whether to put the project out to bid, followed by a vote on whether to approve bonding money to pay for it. Ideally, he said, the facility would be built in 2013.
The department’s needs include additional mechanical bays and storage areas, more employee work space, a new salt and sand storage shed and canopies to cover equipment that’s kept outside.
Tom Goughnour, the school department’s bus technician for 27 years, is probably the city employee most adversely affected by the space crunch. He works in a garage that’s about six feet wider than a bus, so he’s had to come up with creative ways to pull the wheels off when he has to fix the brakes, he said.
And because the buses are kept outside during the winter, he’s had to answer to state police, who take issue with the snow that builds up on bus roofs, because it can fall onto cars on the road.
“They’re always on us for that,” he said.
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at