Building a new facility for the Westbrook Public Services Department could cost as much as $17 million.

The proposal is the most expensive of four options that a 10-member building committee is considering to replace the department’s facility on Saco Street, which has been in need of upgrades since 2006. The committee plans to make a recommendation to the City Council in coming weeks.

The $17 million plan calls for a six-building complex that would include offices, a warehouse, covered areas for equipment and school buses, and a storage shed for salt and sand.

Other options call for fewer buildings and would cost from $10.6 million to $14.4 million, according to estimates from Westbrook-based Sebago Technics, the project’s engineering firm. Plans call for completing construction in 2014.

City Administrator Jerre Bryant said he will recommend seeking bids on the six-building complex.

“We’re hoping … to reduce those costs through the bidding process,” Bryant said. If the bids don’t come in at the desired price, he said, “we may have to look at eliminating or modifying some components.”

The City Council has the authority to borrow money for the project, but it may opt to ask residents to vote on it first.

“It’s one of those things you have to consider,” said City Councilor Michael Foley. If the council chose to do that, Bryant said, the referendum would likely be in June or November.

Overcrowding at the current facility has been a problem since the mid-1990s, when a storage area was turned into a mechanic’s bay because the department needed more room to service vehicles. Since then, more space has been created for the department by renovating and repurposing city buildings, including a former fire station that’s now a service garage.

The City Council acknowledged the need for an upgrade in 2006, when it authorized a preliminary design, but other expensive construction projects have taken precedence.

At the city’s Jan. 9 inauguration ceremony, Mayor Colleen Hilton said an improved public works facility was one of the goals for her second term.

“As a community, we invest millions of dollars in equipment and are responsible for billions of dollars in infrastructure, such as roads, water and sewer systems,” she said. “We must find a way to fund necessary investments in this facility.”

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: [email protected]