OGUNQUIT, Maine — Voters on Tuesday will finally have the opportunity to decide where to locate the new Department of Public Works building, an issue that has sparked controversy in the town in recent months.
While the location of the building has been studied for more than a year, the selectmen finally weighed in on the topic in April, voting 3-2 — with Chris Jarochym, Bob Winn and John Daley casting votes in favor — to put the new building on Berwick Road, where the transfer station and dog park are located.
Right after that vote, a group of 100 residents signed a petition to have the second location, the Captain Thomas Road site, also put on the ballot.
The residents pointed to the work of the Public Works Committee, which had voted 5-2 to recommend to the selectmen that the Department of Public Works building be located off Captain Thomas Road, where the town currently has a shed which stores sand and salt.
That vote came after Senior Project Manager Randy Tome gave a presentation to the public on the findings of engineers Woodard & Curran, who the selectmen had hired to conduct a side-by-side comparison of the two proposed locations for the Department of Public Works’ new building, at a March 28 workshop.
The report revealed that in 2005 there was “a previously identified vernal pool located near the truck scales at the transfer station site.” Tome acknowledged that if Berwick Road was the location for the new Department of Public Works building, future work would have to be done in order to determine if there really is a vernal pool located at the site.
The other regulatory concern Tome discussed involved traffic impacts. The intersection at Berwick Road and Route 1 had been deemed a failed intersection by the town’s Planning Board, according to court documents, earning an F rating.
In 2005, Ogunquit amended its zoning ordinances to state if “the level of service of streets or nearby intersections leading to the proposed project are already at D or below, the application shall be denied unless the applicant can improve the street or intersection capacities or level of service so that no further diminution of the level of service will occur, should the project be constructed.”
Tome noted at the workshop that “the town may be required to provide off-site traffic movement improvements and/or seek a modification of this ordinance.”
The proposed change will also be on the June 11 ballot.
Tome also pointed out other concerns about the Berwick Road site, including relocating the dog park and the need for $50,000 in additional spending to build an access road. He concluded that, based on the findings of the side-by-side comparison study, Woodard & Curran recommended the Captain Thomas Road as the location of the new Department of Public Works building.
Jarochym spoke at the workshop saying that he lives off Berwick Road and believes it is a better decision to build the Department of Public Works garage at that location for many reasons. He noted a study completed last fall that showed the number of vehicles on Berwick Road had decreased and “would warrant a significant improvement” from the F rating in 2005.
Daley said this week that it was difficult to go against the recommendations of the committee, but he believed putting the Department of Public Works building at the Berwick site was the right decision for the future of Ogunquit.
“Ogunquit has a poor history of utilizing land,” Daley said, adding that he believes it is more important to not tie up 73 acres of land that could be used in the future for purposes including elderly housing, bike and pedestrian paths, or selling the property to add to Ogunquit’s tax roll.
But not all selectmen are comfortable with the board’s decision.
At the June 2 Select Board meeting, Chairwoman Barbara Dailey discussed the board’s vote to go against the committee’s recommendation of the Captain Thomas Road location.
“I cannot in good faith ignore the many, many, many requests to be considered from the impassioned residents of that area,” she said. “It calls into question, ‘why have a committee?’”
Dailey added, “Personally, I find it embarrassing as a board.”