YORK, Maine — The town might not have enough money to build the new police station and road as proposed, it was revealed at Monday night’s Board of Selectmen workshop, and officials are still trying to figure out who is responsible for mistakes made on the project up until now.
Chairman Ron Nowell said before the meeting he wanted to find out what went wrong with the initial project “from the get-go” and wanted to focus on moving forward.
The new application was presented to the Planning Board Thursday night by Andrew Johnston, senior civil engineer for SMRT, the architecture and engineering firm that designed the first road and police station project application.
The selectmen wanted a rundown Monday night of the issues addressed and a synopsis of the problems that hung up the application. Johnston told them the application would be reviewed and voted upon at the next Planning Board meeting.
“Most of the issues were resolved Thursday by the Planning Board,” said Johnston.
“They felt it was more efficient to go to the next Planning Board meeting for review and vote.”
Selectman Torbert Macdonald took issue with the fact that many of the problems from the initial application and initial phase of tree and land clearing for the project have yet to be addressed, and the application before the Planning Board on Thursday was much the same as the original.
“Whose responsibility is it?” asked Macdonald. “We’re going on the assumption that this is all fait accompli. It is like a young man who murders his parents and throws himself at the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.”
Johnston pointed out that as the designer, his role is not to enforce code or to make sure contractors and construction work is performed properly. He admitted he understood the board’s frustration, but reiterated his designs took into account all proper buffers and land-clearing issues.
Another high-profile issue hanging up the project is the emergency connector road from the police station to Route 1, which would give emergency services easy access to a busy four-lane, 55-mph road in constant use during the summer months, officials said.
The road, as it is currently designed in the application, will be inaccessible to the public due to safety reasons. Even emergency services, according to Nowell, should be barred from using the road.
“I don’t want my fire department shooting out on Route 1 with no warning,” he said.
In order for a traffic light to be installed either the town has to pay for it, which was voted down last May, or the state could deem it essential for safety purposes. The problem is an in-depth traffic study has to be completed by the state on the proposed intersection, and a study cannot be conducted by the state until it becomes a “known safety hazard,” according to Nowell. For that to happen, the road would have to be opened to public use.
The use of the road, though, is at the “discretion of the town,” said Johnston, noting that under the current and previous application, it was recommended by the Department of Transportation to not give the public full access to the road.
The financial status of the currently shelved project was addressed by the board. Town Manager Robert Yandow took the lead, offering an up-to-date financial accounting.
York voters approved $8.4 million for the project construction and $6.6 million has been earmarked for construction, with the remainder covering administrative costs. Yandow said so far nearly $2 million has been spent on clearing the land, though some changes may occur, up or down.
Selectman Kinley Gregg asked if Yandow believes York has received $2 million worth of work.
“I don’t know,” said Yandow, who said he needed to discuss the remainder of the proposed project with SMRT about the future of the project.
Macdonald stressed that the town needs to consult its attorney to see what rights the town has, who is responsible for the work done on the site off Ridge Road, including the large buffer zones that seem to exceed the design envelope and a host of other issues.
“What are our rights?” asked Macdonald. “Before we spend any more money we need to know who is accountable. If it were up to me I wouldn’t authorize another nickel.”
The board addressed a letter recently sent to the town saying that SMRT met with PC Construction, which conducted the land-clearing on the site, to discuss the fact that the design as it now stands might not be financially feasible.
“There’s not enough money left in the budget to do the project as proposed,” said Nowell. “You’re going ahead with old designs that quite obviously might not be done financially.”
The board had other questions for the recently contracted town attorney.
“Who authorized the cutting?” asked Nowell about the road clearing that occurred in 2012. “No permits were given. I don’t know whether people were misinformed or what. If the Planning Board had followed their own rules and regulations we wouldn’t be here today.”
The selectmen were tasked by Nowell to put questions together for the attorney, who will have a chance to review them before their next meeting, at 7 p.m. Monday, April 28, at the York Public Library.