October 21, 2013

South Portland to vote on $14 million public works facility

The modern, 79,000-square-foot facility on Highland Avenue would include office space for the Parks and Recreation Department.

By Matt Byrne mbyrne@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

South Portland voters will decide Nov. 5 whether to approve a $14 million bond to construct a multipurpose public services center on Highland Avenue, replacing an outmoded public garage on O’Neil Street.

The nearly 79,000-square-foot facility would include modern garage bays for the care and maintenance of public works trucks, provide covered outdoor storage for vehicles, and house the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, Transportation Department and other offices. The Highland Avenue location is on the site of the city’s transfer station, which would remain in place and be incorporated into the new configuration. The total cost of the project is roughly $15.7 million, with the remaining $1.74 million paid from a combination of a federal grant and reserve funds.

In all, the new facility would house seven vehicle maintenance bays, 23,500 square feet of indoor equipment storage, a large storage barn, and outdoor equipment and vehicle parking. Inside, the building would have space for carpentry, welding and metal fabrication, parts and equipment storage and a sign shop, according to a plan by the architectural firm Sebago Technics.

The old building at O’Neil Street, constructed before 1950, can no longer accommodate the needs of the department, according to the city. Garage bays are too small for mechanics to work on large public works trucks, and the buildings are inadequate, according to the city.

Last year, the project was delayed because of concerns over cost and timing for taxpayers, who are still paying for the ongoing $40 million high school renovation. The current bond of $14 million, slimmed down by a few million dollars from estimates last year, represents a funding plan that attempts to better time the impact on property taxes, according to the city.

In 2018, the city expects to retire an old bond, so the impact of the new bond on taxpayers would be minimized. The new bond would increase property taxes on a house valued at $190,000 by roughly $55 annually, the city said.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:mbyrne@pressherald.com
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