GORHAM – Gorham town councilors heard on Tuesday from the architect drawing up plans for a Public Safety Building makeover that the estimated cost has been shaved to just under $5 million.

The project would keep the police and fire departments headquartered at 270 Main St. Plans unveiled last month call for constructing a new building in front of the existing structure to house police and renovate the entire Public Safety Building for the fire department.

The estimated figure last month had been pegged at $5.1 million, but the figure has been trimmed to $4.99 million in the latest estimate.

In a Town Council workshop presentation on Tuesday, architect Andrew Hyland of Port City Architecture in Portland attributed the cost reduction to a closer look at figures associated with electrical and mechanical systems for the proposed project.

A Public Safety Building Committee early last year reported a multitude of problems at the 40-year-old Public Safety Building. But, Gorham voters in 2013 rejected a $6.3 million proposal that would have built a new public safety complex for police and fire departments at the site of the former Little Falls School.

Town Councilor Sherrie Benner said on Wednesday the town got off to a “rocky start” on the Public Safety Building issue, facing location and money concerns.

“What we are now proposing is at a lower construction cost being a renovation project with new construction at the existing location,” Benner said.

While the cost of the present plan has been reduced, Town Manager David Cole told the Town Council on Tuesday there are no substantive changes from the board’s first look at the latest plans in June. A public hearing on the public safety upgrade proposal will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 5, at Gorham Municipal Center, 75 South St.

Town Council Chairman Michael Phinney asked Hyland to attend the hearing. The council could decide at next week’s meeting to send the proposal to voters in a November referendum.

Under Hyland’s proposal, police and fire departments would remain in Gorham Village. Hyland said on Tuesday the first phase of the project would move police out of the existing building and into a new, 10,000-square-foot building with a brick exterior. A storage barn would be added for police equipment.

The entire existing Public Safety Building would be renovated for use by the fire department. Two bays would be added to the rear of the building to house fire department equipment.

Benner praised the town’s police and fire departments.

“They keep us safe, and they deserve a safe work place, and currently that is questionable,” Benner said.

In another workshop topic, the Town Council discussed various options available to increase downtown parking while utilizing two properties the town owns. In 2012, the town paid $169,900 for a house on a small lot at 21 Main St. and $239,900 for a house and barn at 10 Preble St.

“This is a workshop,” Town Council Chairman Michael Phinney said in Tuesday’s meeting. “We’re not making final decisions.”

The Town Council appeared to favor saving the house at 21 Main St., but available parking under that scenario would be limited due to the tiny .11-acre lot. Tom Ellsworth, director of Gorham Economic Development Corp., said its members on Tuesday morning discussed proposed parking there and suggested trying to reach a deal with a neighboring business, Amato’s Sandwich Shops, for a joint parking venture.

Meanwhile at 10 Preble St., 24 parking spaces could be realized, if the barn was razed while saving the house. It sits on a third-of-an-acre lot adjacent to the town’s green space at the corner of South and Preble streets.

Town Council Vice Chairman Shonn Moulton suggested the possibility of locating the proposed parking on the existing green space. Moulton said the green could be shifted toward 10 Preble St. as a buffer for residential property.

Architect Andrew Hyland on Tuesday updates the Gorham Town Council about the cost of a proposed Public Safety Building project that could go to voters in November.   

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