Rockland asks voters to borrow $2.9 million for new public works building

Posted Nov. 01, 2011, at 9:38 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The current public works building is a bit of a wreck. The trucks don’t all fit in the garage, the boiler has been on the fritz for years, snow blows through the broken walls, there are no fire alarms or sprinklers, and the hallways are one-person wide and thus not in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The city is asking voters to approve borrowing $2.9 million for a new public works facility in a bond issue on the Nov. 8 ballot. Residents would pay just over $3.8 million total, including anticipated interest over the 15 years.

The issue might be a tough sell because on the same ballot the county will ask to borrow $2.5 million for a public safety building.

“Something has got to be done,” said Rockland Public Works Director Greg Blackwell, referring to the $2.9 million bond request. “There is no good time [to ask for this money]. We’ve been trying to take advantage of contractors who are bidding very competitively right now. This problem isn’t going away.”

For the $2.9 million, the 7,200-square-foot 1950s metal building that houses public works would be torn to the ground. It would be replaced by an 18,000-square-foot, geothermally heated building which would hold all the department’s trucks. The new building also would contain a truck washing station, a maintenance area, office space, locker rooms and more.

In addition to the main building, the bond would support construction of a 70-by-130-foot salt and sand shed. Salt now is stored in a 17-by-25-foot shed. About $30,000 worth of city-purchased sand is kept in a massive unsheltered pile taller than the public works building.

This poor storage has caused a couple of problems, Blackwell said.

For one thing, the salt and sand leak into a nearby marsh, which caused concerns with the Department of Environmental Protection, he said. For another, wet, clumpy sand spreads far less efficiently. The public works director estimated the department loses a quarter of its product because of rain washing it away and clumping inefficiencies.

Based on the department’s expenditure of $100,000 on sand and salt this past year, he estimated the loss at about $25,000.

If voters approve the bond issue, construction should begin in spring and finish by the beginning of next winter.

In 2007, voters turned down a similar proposal. Last year Blackwell worked to get this issue on the ballot, but it did not make it that far in the process.

He said residents are welcome to tour the building on Burrows Street from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. any weekday.

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