Kennebunk Select Board members are talking about the condition of the public services facility and what can be done about it. Tammy Wells photo

KENNEBUNK – The public works building is in rough shape, select board members say, and so they have begun a conversation on what to do about it.

Six of the seven members met in a workshop to discuss the matter on June 30. They agreed to continue talking, inventory what’s currently on the Sea Road property and the services offered there – from public works functions to the privately-run transfer station, storage facilities for other town departments, snow dump, and more. There’s also a treasure chest shop, bottle redemption facility and dog park.

The cost of a new structure and how to pay for it – once it is decided what’s needed – would go to a town-wide vote.

“The facilities aren’t fit for people to work in,” said select board chair Blake Baldwin. And he pointed out that some of the town’s public works equipment lives outside, subject to the weather.

The public works garage sits on 56 acres that includes wetlands and an old, 20-acre capped landfill.

The building’s roof leaks, Public Services Director Brian Laverriere keeps the heating system running, the bathrooms need work and there are other issues, staff told select board members.

“The building is tired,” said Laverriere.

It is unclear when the main building was first constructed. A  two-bay addition was completed in the 1990s.

There are other issues to consider – like making sure traffic patterns between the structure and the transfer station that are worrisome are solved; whether the transfer station remains on the property, what any possible move to a different location – if one could be found – would mean for efficiency and a host of other issues.

“The $12 million question is where do we propose the money come from and the answer is, we borrow it said Baldwin, “We’d have to go to the legislative body (town meeting) ….”

Changing the location to another piece of land, if one could be found, would mean re-arranging routes and perhaps additional equipment, depending on the location.

Opinions varied on whether the transfer station, which is operated by a private contractor, needs to be on the site.

Peter Brewitt, who is unopposed for a select board seat in the July 14 election, said he believes a decision needs to be made on the transfer station.

“My suggestion is we look at the ramifications with doing away with the transfer station and giving people plenty of notice … there are plenty of commercial services out that that can absorb that material,” Brewitt said.

Board member Wayne Berry said if the public services department needs the space, perhaps the transfer station could locate elsewhere. He noted the current space is free to the contractor.

Laverriere pointed out that if at some point the transfer station were to revert to town operation, his preference would be for it to be on the same property as the public works headquarters, for oversight and equipment.

Board member Shiloh Schulte asked if the storage locations for police, fire and town operations could be located elsewhere, the space where they’re currently located could be used for the transfer station.

Board member Ed Karytko said the town needs to look at comprehensive planning.

Using a slightly higher figure of $13 million bonded over 20 years, Finance Director Joel Downs told the board that would amount to about 40 or 50 cents on the mil rate.

One of the members asked if the project could be bonded for a longer period. Downs said it could, but results in added interest payments.

Baldwin said Karytko had a point – that planning had to be done. And he said the public works project is number one, because it provides so many services that residents expect.

“…  it starts with this project,” said Baldwin. “Ed’s right – we can’t just wander off into the desert and build stuff because it feels good or we have a need. We have to figure out where it fits. We need to come to grips with our strengths and weaknesses … and move on with strategic planning.”

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