OLD TOWN, Maine - The City Council rejected a bid Monday night to start work on the Earland Sleight Training Center building, effectively reopening the search for a new location for City Hall.
The council, which voted 6-1, was considering a $1,292,925 bid from E.W. Littlefield, Inc. & Sons for renovation and construction of Earland Sleight, which is located at 740 Main St. across from the Red Shield Environmental LLC facility. The council motion included the bid and a $20,000 contract with Carpenter Associates for construction oversight.
The City Hall conversation drew more than 50 residents, 11 of whom spoke against a move out of downtown Old Town. City Hall is located now in an office space at 150 Brunswick St. above the Bangor Savings Bank building on Main Street.
The council is considering other choices for relocating the city offices. Those options include purchasing the Gossamer Press building, which is also on Main Street, or building a new facility either downtown or on city-owned land outside of the downtown area. City Manager Peggy Daigle said the city is seeking a space with at least 9,000 feet square feet. The current space is less than 5,000 square feet.
Cost estimates show $1.467 million to $1.472 million for the Earland Sleight building, $1.659 million to $1.759 million for Gossamer Press, and $1.87 million to $2.17 million for new construction.
Most of the council members favored a new building.
“I really think we need to spend a little bit of money and build brand-new,” council President David Mahan said.
Councilor Alan Stormann was the lone vote in favor of continuing to look at Earland Sleight because of the engineering work that already had been put into the site.
“We’ re trying to save taxpayers’ money,” he said. “We [don’ t want to] sink more money into engineering [on a new site].”
Gossamer Press owners Corina and David Larsen spoke out for their 9,400-square-foot building, which is located in the downtown retail area. They pointed out that the costs for work on the pavement and parking lot around Earland Sleight was listed as unknown in the cost comparison of the three choices.
Some residents said they were concerned because the Gossamer Press building has the potential to flood due to its proximity to the Penobscot River. The building is not in a flood zone, David Larsen said.
Councilor Jamie Dufour and other residents also pointed out the non-negotiable selling price of $819,000 for the Gossamer building, which is above the current tax value of $573,200.
In other business, the council voted unanimously to schedule a second hearing on a rezoning matter for the Juniper Ridge Landfill. The proposal changes the lot owned by the state, plus 700 acres, from R-3A (rural residence and farming) to L-1 (landfill). The proposal also creates a buffer zone for abutting landowners.
The stated-owned landfill would be exempt unless and until the landfill expands, which it is expected to do eventually. Representatives from Casella, which operates the landfill, were concerned the language of the proposal indicates some regulation of the current landfill area.
Daigle said as the slope of the hill changes, the landfill and its expansion eventually could be one large area.
The council also voted 6-0 to raise taxi rates from $1.30 to $1.50 for the first six-tenths of a mile less, and from 30 cents to 35 cents for each sixth of a mile or less thereafter. City Clerk Patricia Brochu said the taxi companies sought a rate increase because of higher gas prices and cited a recent rise in taxi rates in Bangor.