Lincolnville residents weigh in on renovation
Lincolnville — On Monday, Oct. 22, the Lincolnville Board of Selectmen hosted a public hearing on a referendum question that will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. The question asks voters if they will vote to appropriate $470,000 from the Capital Investment Reserve Account and authorize up to $220,000 in general obligation bonds to fund the renovation and expansion of the existing Lincolnville Town Office.
The selectmen, municipal building committee and budget committee have been working with Amanda and Brian Austen of 2A Architects and the engineering firm Gartley and Dorsky to create and revise the renovation plan since the end of June. Originally, architects were charged with creating both a renovation schematic and a schematic reflecting a completely new town office building to be located elsewhere on the site. Ultimately the selectmen elected to move forward with renovations based on a number of factors, including budget.
About 20 people attended the public hearing, conducted during the time allocated for a regular meeting of the selectmen. The public hearing was held in the Walsh Common — or cafeteria — at Lincolnville Central School. Though selectmen routinely meet in a classroom, they utilize the larger space for meetings where greater attendance is expected, a topic brought up by a resident concerned about an assembly room space being included in the design of the proposed new building.
Municipal building committee chairman Jay Foster was first to speak, presenting the town office plan and detailing the collaborative work in creating it. Architect Amanda Austen then presented the floor plan. She said she and Brian Austen have looked at the building and talked with the staff; they presented findings that the town office building is in good shape, but does have some "deferred maintenance" issues, including roofing. ADA compliance is another key factor in pursuing renovation, she explained.
"The concerns go back 15 years," she said, referring to the new design as a "professional, efficient and practical space."
Resident Jim Sinclair took the microphone to address the selectmen. He voiced his concern about the deferred maintenance and the planned assembly room space. He contended Walsh Common is a fine space for large meetings and said the school was designed with the idea the room would serve a dual-purpose.
"This is the cafeteria for the school," Selectman Rosey Gerry replied. He explained that every time there is a town committee meeting an upstairs classroom in the school has to be "disrupted," by the set-up and breakdown of tables, chairs, audio and video equipment. The town administrator also has to haul paperwork and boxes back and forth from the town office to the school for every meeting, the selectman later pointed out.
"I think this is a grand plan for a town who can't afford it," Sinclair said.
Resident Tracy Colby also voiced some concerns and said she had visited the newly renovated Hope Town Office and learned they had spent around $300,000 on renovation. She initially indicated the town did not employ an architect for the project, but Amanda Austen said that was untrue, noting she was the architect for the Hope project as well. She explained the differences in the two projects, pointing out Hope did not need to add more space because had the space to work with in the building; they also did not require a great deal of site work.
Colby also inquired about the interest on the $220,000 bond. She said it would cost $99,000 across 20 years per her calculations based on a 4 percent interest rate. Town officials confirmed she was correct in her calculations. Colby said the building costs were seemingly much higher than those presented in a flyer mailed to residents.
Foster was one of several voices who reiterated that estimates were conservative for both building costs and interest rates. He said he anticipates good bids will come in, and that they could be lower than the estimates. Town Manager David Kinney pointed out that interest rates could be considerably lower than 4 percent, too.
Resident Jim Dunham said he is in favor of promoting a more active community. He inquired about the energy efficiency of the building design, and encouraged pedestrian ways and a bike rack to be part of the parking scheme. While the building was not designed with solar, or other alternative energy in mind, Amanda Austen said the building is like oriented to accommodate solar options, if that is a future possibility.
Resident Arlene Leighton said she has seen the town grow during several decades. She recalled the days when the town operated off "carts" wheeled into the hallway of the school, and remembers how excited residents were about the "new" town office.
"I'm embarrassed to go in there," she said of the current town office. "We've outgrown the town office and we need to move on."
Cathy Hardy, a former member of the board of selectmen, said she has worked with the municipal building committee since June. She admitted she was likely the most "fiscally conservative" member of the committee, and said she joined because the town office renovation has previously been defeated twice at the polls.
"My goal is to make sure we didn't have a strike three," she said. She said she's not completely happy with the bottom line, but she is confident the price tag of the building is as low as it can be in order achieve necessary functions.
"I will be supporting the building this time and I haven't the last two times," Hardy said.
Lincolnville residents will vote on the town office proposal Nov. 6. Polls will be located at the LCS gymnasium and will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at email@example.com.