WELLS, Maine — The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday unanimously approved an alternative site on Route 9 as the location for the town’s new fire substation.
As part of their approval, selectmen also agreed that the project — including site development and construction — should not exceed $1.25 million.
The vote clears the way for the new substation to be situated on the same property as the town’s Public Works Department on Route 9.
Originally, plans called for the station to be built on Route 109, near Meetinghouse Road, as a result of funds approved for such a project at the Annual Town Meeting in 2017.
Selectmen later determined that location to be costly and started exploring whether the Route 9 site would be more cost-effective, would offer more efficient utilities, and would provide an “equal or improved public safety response” for the community.
In November, voters gave selectmen permission to consider the Route 9 site by a ratio of more than 4-to-1 at the polls during the town’s election. Selectmen had decided to take the matter to voters because they agreed that it would save on expenses to have the substation built during the same time frame as the town’s new, larger public safety complex, which is currently under construction on Route 1.
The vote in favor of the Route 9 site on Tuesday went 4-0. Selectwoman Kathy Chase was absent from the meeting.
Before their meeting on Tuesday, selectmen held a workshop on the matter with Town Manager Jonathan Carter, Landry-French, the project’s construction management company, and Lavalee Brensinger Architects, its architect. Carter summarized the workshop during the meeting that followed.
According to Carter, the town would save approximately $164,000 in site development costs if the substation were to be built at the Route 9 location and another $50,000 in building expenses. The Route 9 site also had superior appeal to the Route 109 one because of the quality of the utilities and the town’s ability to interconnect with the communications tower that would be erected there.
According to Carter, the analysis that came to these conclusions cost the town $68,610, which breaks down into $46,410 for the site design, $13,800 for the site permitting, and $8,400 for the geotechnical aspects.
The construction management team now will prepare a guaranteed price contract and will present it to the selectmen at their next meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
After the vote, Selectmen Chairman Karl Ekstedt took care to assure the local volunteer firefighters that he and his colleagues on the board had taken into consideration their comments and feelings regarding the Route 9 site. During a public hearing in October, two firefighters addressed the proposed alternative, expressing concerns that the Route 9 site would be too remote and, if not staffed, could increase emergency response times.
Currently, there are three fire substations in Wells: Corner Station at 1563 Post Road; Branch Station at 1358 Branch Road; and Highpine Station at 51 Highpine Loop Road. The new substation will consolidate the Branch and Highpine stations. Originally, the town had planned to close those two stations; as a result of feedback during the October hearing, however, selectmen will work with the Wells Fire Department to consider keeping the Branch Station open in some capacity.
Selectmen have authorized Carter to develop a warrant article proposing that the original site on Route 109 be put up for sale. Voters will address this proposal during the Town Meeting this June.
In other news, selectmen unanimously approved the appointment of Sparhawk Group, an engineering company in Portland, to conduct the startup of the new public safety complex on Route 1. The company will review all the mechanics and equipment in the new building to make sure everything is installed and calibrated correctly, based on blueprints and specifications.
Of the quotes that the town considered, the Sparhawk Group was the only one that could conduct the work in the time frame set forth for the project, according to Carter. The company will complete the work for $39,405.