LINCOLN, Maine — Residents will decide in a special March referendum whether the town will build a $1.15 million Public Works garage to replace a Park Avenue facility that town leaders have agreed for years needs replacement, officials said Wednesday.
The Town Council voted 7-0 with little discussion Monday to set the referendum for March 1, Town Manager Lisa Goodwin said.
The referendum will be the second held on the subject. Voters narrowly rejected replacing it with a new structure for $675,000 in a November 2008 referendum. The vote was 1,175 to 1,117.
Among the challenges councilors face, Councilor Curt Ring said, is to convince voters that the garage replacement is necessary and the plan worthy, devoid of unnecessary expense.
“We have a month and a half to do that,” Ring said Wednesday. “We have to get it out to the public that we need this building. It fits, and it’s the right price.
“There is such a fine line between what the town can afford and what its needs are,” Ring added. “The [proposed] garage does meet its needs. Town workers are working in a substandard building. With this new proposal, I feel that the town [building committee] has now met that balance between what the town can afford and what they [town workers] need.”
Town leaders have acknowledged for years that a new garage is necessary, because the current facility on Park Avenue has many structural flaws, some of which compromise worker safety.
The third and latest garage redesign offered for construction on the town’s Park Avenue site features an 8,025-square-foot building of three bays that could hold six vehicles and six rooms, including an office, lunchroom, two bathrooms and storage and building utilities areas.
Building committee members have cut the initial $2.4 million proposal significantly since October, when a group of taxpayers, including some of the town’s business owners, complained loudly of the cost, saying that town taxes already were too high for the services offered and that a garage simply shouldn’t cost that much.
Committee members have said that state regulations require public buildings to have features that garages built privately don’t, and this leads to some residents having inaccurate ideas about how inexpensively a garage can be built.
The council rejected a $2.4 million design on Oct. 19 and a $1.5 million proposal on Oct. 27.
The latest design lacks a cold-storage bay and lubrication pit featured in previous designs, and town Public Works Department Director David Lloyd has warned that the current garage would be adequate only for present needs.
If residents approve the project, construction can begin in the spring. If not, another referendum likely will be held in November to restart the construction process.