The new Public Safety Building is on US Route 1, next to the Scarborough Municipal Building. Catherine Bart photo

SCARBOROUGH — As the Public Safety Building project nears completion, the Town Council has been asked to authorize additional funding that was not included in the voter-approved bond amount. On Wednesday, Dec. 18, the council granted initial approval of the extra funds.

The expenditures listed on the order authorizing additional spending at the Dec. 18 meeting include $350,000 for furniture, fixtures and equipment, $65,000 for miscellaneous mechanical fixtures, $99,434 for IT Equipment, and $20,000 for a reader-board sign.

Town Manager Tom Hall recommended to the council that the expenditures be covered by $259,000 in interest earned on the Public Safety Building unspent bond proceeds and $275,434 from the non-designated fund balance, which would be a total of $534,434.

In November 2017, voters approved a bond to not exceed $19.5 million to fund the project. According to an article in the Forecaster, “Town Manager Tom Hall on July 11 said the town is committed to a guaranteed maximum cost of $21.5 million. Any additional or unexpected costs must be brought to the Town Council for approval.”

“In order to complete the project as authorized in good faith by the Town Council while respecting the voters’ total authorization, I recommend that the Town Council provide additional appropriation authority for the four project-related items listed (above),” Hall said in his recommendation.

The building is on track to be occupied by April, said Tom Perkins, the representative and consultant working on behalf of the town.

Because of the unpredictable nature of construction, especially during the winter months, Hall said that other costs, if there are any, have not been finalized yet, but he expects to know exact amounts by the project’s expected completion in May.

“You might ask yourself why we’ve waited all this time, and there’s really two factors: One, we’ve always been counting on the proceeds of the existing building and we’ve been marketing that property for well over a year,” Hall said. “It was quite possible that we would get more than we were expecting we thought that would be an important thing to know about before we had this discussion, but we now have some clarity in that regard. We’re not across the finish line yet but we have the building under contract and we know what the number is and I’m pleased to say that we’re hitting that mark in that respect.

“The other critical piece was mentioned at this podium earlier is that things happen during construction and we wanted to make sure we had some good construction experience,” he continued. “The time is right and for the members talking about finances those issues have come up and this was the expected deadline. I promised I would come back to you at the end of the year if only for my own piece of mind.”

The new cell tower, adjacent to the Public Safety Building project, has recently been erected. Catherine Bart photo

A few members of the Ad-Hoc Public Safety Building Complex Committee asked the Town Council to consider the work that had gone into the project and approve the additional funding.

“I can tell you it’s the people who have been working on this project team that have made it happen to keep it within schedule and as close to the budget as possible,” said Committee Chair Kevin Freeman. “That 0.5 percent over budget is remarkable in this economy. That goes to the team that Dennis Landry is here from Landry/French. That truck is on the job site every day at 6 a.m. We’ve had a lot of workers on site and it’s really coming close to staying on schedule. So I mention all of that because we’re getting close and it’s all because of the hard work and it’s been a long haul for us.”

Councilor Peter Hayes said that he supported additional funding for the project.

“This isn’t about not funding it,” he said. “It is: how do we fund it?”

The other councilors echoed Hayes’s thoughts, and at the end of the meeting the public was asked to weigh in during the next few weeks.

At least one councilor said she was uncertain if the council had the authority to approve extra funding for the project.

“If we don’t have that authority, which I don’t think that we do, then it needs to go back to referendum and that amount needs to go up, or we can interpret and say we’re just going to bond,” said Councilor Betsy Gleysteen. “I’m not comfortable saying Tom has the authority. He either has it or it needs to go back to the voters cause I don’t think we have it as a part of the capital project. This is part of the capital project, no doubt about it. You can’t have an empty building, so that’s where I’m at.”

The public may be confused about why the expenditures were not included in the proposed amount back in 2017, said Hayes.

“I think some of our constituents thought — and I’m on finance and other things — I thought I was approving the total expenditure,” said Hayes. “I think a lot of people think that. On the other hand, there’s good arguments: we were authorized to borrow up to a certain limit. To me, this is the first read. One place we could go tonight is that we approve this bonding. We wait till we get any public push back, saying they have an issue with that. But I think tonight we have had a compelling story on why we’re a little bit over budget.”

The Town Council added an amendment to the order: “And further order such appropriations will be from additional bonding up to $19.5 million,” and the motion was unanimously approved.

The second hearing and final vote is scheduled for the Jan. 8 meeting.

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