Windham residents will decide Nov. 7 whether to borrow $9.3 million for a new public works building.

A similar but cheaper proposal failed by 113 votes in 2015. Still, Town Manager Tony Plante said the problems with the current building haven’t gone away.

“The need we have is the same need we articulated two years ago,” Plante said.

The existing public works building on Windham Center Road is 8,800 square feet and dates back to 1978. It is used to store and maintain plow trucks and other town equipment. For more than 30 years, the school district has also used the building for bus storage and maintenance.

Town and school officials argue that Windham outgrew the space decades ago. A facilities assessment analysis done in 1998 found the building needed to double in size. The next year, however, voters turned down a $3.9 million bond for that project.

Another assessment done in 2013 showed a long list of problems with the site. Those included circulation conflicts, a lack of stormwater management and treatment, inadequate parking and storage, and undersized fuel storage tanks.

Plante said there are not enough vehicle maintenance bays, which leads to longer repair times. The lack of an indoor vehicle wash bay means equipment isn’t regularly cleaned in the winter, when temperatures are too cold to wash it outside, leading to corrosion and a shortened lifespan. Plow trucks are stored outside and need time to warm up, which means the response time for treating the streets after storms is longer.

Now, the town estimates it needs three times the existing space to address those needs. But in 2015, voters rejected a $7.7 million bond for a replacement, 1,110 to 997.

When that proposal failed, the town and school district convened a committee to rethink the design for a new building. They made minor changes, but inflation in construction costs still drove up the price.

“They really looked at every aspect of the plan to see whether there was anything about the plan that could be modified or removed or in any other way changed with an eye toward reducing the cost,” Plante said. “The short answer to that question was no.”

Plante said the new facility would be next to the existing one, which would be torn down. There would be enough room inside the 30,000-square-foot building to stage trucks for a winter storm and include an indoor wash bay. Plante estimated the improvements at the new building would save the town $8 million over the 50-year life of the building, citing a 2015 study on vehicle corrosion prepared by Montana State University and published by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Plante said the school district has more than 30 buses, and the town has 50 to 60 public works vehicles.

“This is a facility that supports services that people rely on every day,” Plante said.

If the bond is approved, Plante said the project would add about $6 a month to the tax bill for the average Windham homeowner. The tax rate would go up between 30 and 35 cents over 20 years, adding about $60 and $70 to the tax bill for a $200,000 home. Construction would be finished in fall 2019.

Residents are invited to open houses at the existing building, including one from 9 a.m. to noon on Oct. 28. More information about the proposal is also available online at windhammaine.us.

Windham residents will vote at the auxiliary gym in Windham High School at 406 Gray Road. The polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: megan_e_doyle