ORRINGTON, Maine — Selectmen took their first steps Monday night toward constructing a less expensive public safety building that would combine the now separate fire station and police office. They were deciding next steps less than a week after residents decided against spending up to $3.5 million on the building.
At a meeting Monday night attended by more than 50 people, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to form a committee tasked with bringing less expensive options forward in time for an early April vote so construction can begin next year.
The selectmen put off appointing people to the seven- to nine-member committee until a special meeting on Dec. 17 to allow residents who want to serve on it to come forward. Board members also plan to poll members of the previous committee, formed in 2013, to see if they want to be part of the new group.
Last week, residents at a special town meeting voted 255-234 against spending up to $3.5 million on construction. Under the town charter, a new special town meeting on the public safety building proposal cannot be held for 120 days.
Selectman Michael Curtis, who made the motion to form the new committee, said he believes community members understand the need for a new building but think it could done for less money.
“We need to gather some community members who have a background in the building trades, and we have them in this room,” Curtis said Monday night. “Their meetings should be public with time for input from the community.”
More than half a dozen residents at Monday night’s meeting volunteered to serve on the new committee, including state Rep. Dick Campbell, a contractor; Bruce Gray, retired president of S.W. Cole Engineering Inc.; Terry Curtis, a retired code enforcement officer who has worked on large projects; Ed McCurdy, a retired builder with 40 years of experience; and Allan Elkin, who led the opposition to the $3.5 million project.
Fire Chief Scott Stewart, police Chief Jon Carson and Selectman Curtis also are expected to be appointed to the new committee.
The cost of the building and the way the proposal originally was presented created a controversy in the community located along the Penobscot River between Brewer and Bucksport. Signs supporting the $3.5 million project and opposing it popped up along major roads in town including Route 15, Center Drive and Johnson Mill Road. And more than 90 registered voters signed petitions asking the town to consider less expensive options.
The proposed 13,000-square-foot-building would have been constructed at the corner of Center and Tupper drives. The current fire station contains health hazards and code violations.
The $3.5 million proposal would not have impacted the tax rate, as it would have been paid for out of a municipal building reserve account, the town’s tax increment financing account and an undesignated fund balance, officials have said.