Lincolnville selectmen agreed March 22 to continue negotiating with Catalano’s Construction for the town’s new fire station project.

Of the 12 bids received for the fire station, the lowest arrived courtesy of the Thomaston-based Catalano’s at $737,242. The other bids ranged from that figure up to $934,006. The number of bidders, which included all the subcontractors, totaled around 100. All were Maine companies.

“Anyone within 50 miles bid on it, or at least looked at it,” said Robert Fenney, project architect, at the regularly scheduled meeting held in a classroom at Lincolnville Central School. The Catalano’s bid arrived $50,000 lower than the other bids and Feeney told the selectmen, “they were candid about why their prices were low.”

Fenney said Catalano’s owns its own sitework equipment and does not have to subcontract that portion of the job. Furthermore, he said, the company wants to keep its employees of that portion of the business working and will do the fire station sitework in Lincolnville at cost to keep them busy.

Fenney also told the selectmen that Catalano’s had a good reputation in the state.

Both the Lincolnville Fire Department Inc. and the Municipal Buildings Committee support the Catalano bid.

In November 2008, Lincolnville voters approved accepting funds from the volunteer fire department organization to build the fire station, a project estimated at $1.1 million, a price that included the cost of land acquisition. Earlier that year, the nonprofit Lincolnville Volunteer Fire Department Inc., many of whose members are volunteer firefighters with the Lincolnville Fire Department, learned it could use funds from the sale of old Lincolnville Telephone Co. securities bequeathed in 1985 by Hazel Heald to attain its longtime goal of building a new fire station.

The nonprofit, which formed in the 1950s, agreed to direct the cash from the liquidated stock to the town to purchase the land near the intersection of routes 52 and 173 and build a new fire station there, making it a municipal project. The entire project is to be funded by the original Heald gift and no taxpayer money is to be used for the acquisition of land, or the construction of the new fire station.

With the Municipal Buildings Committee closing its work on the fire station project, the selectmen also agreed on March 22 to direct that committee’s energy back toward reexamining options for the town office, especially given the favorable building climate with low interest rates and lowered contractors’ costs. Expansion of the town office was discussed in depth in 2008, but with the contracting economy and skeptical town sentiment, the selectmen voted not to place a town office expansion proposal before voters.

The project in 2008 was estimated to cost $522,188, and the selectmen had opposed placing more fiscal strain on taxpayers.

Citizens supporting the project, which includes building two wings on the existing town office to provide more work space for staff, as well as a meeting room, said the right opportunity was at hand, and the need to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act was too imperative to wait.

With the project returning to the selectmen’s agenda, the options for discussion include doing nothing; renovating and/or expanding the building; or building a new facility elsewhere. The selectmen may be asked to prepare a draft charge to the Municipal Buildings Committee, directing it to again explore town office expansion plans and costs.

On March 22, the selectmen asked Town Administrator David Kinney to draft a new charge for the committee and return with it to their next meeting. While they agreed in principle to look at the options, there were also cautions about making decisions.

“I don’t have an issue with looking at it, but I would move forward very cautiously,” said Selectman Jason Trundy. “I’m definitely interested in looking at it.”

“Interest rates are at the lowest they’ve ever been,” said Selectman Rosey Gerry. “Personally, I am for a new structure. I see many complications with renovation of an older one.”

Selectman Robert Plausse said: “I understand that in this economy people are going to say, ‘what, are you crazy?’ But right now, this is the most you are going to get for tax dollars.”

Selectman Cathy Hardy said she is not convinced that the existing building has yet to be used to its fullest capacity, and suggested the town look at expanding it, perhaps adding a wing.

In other business

The selectmen addressed possibly expanding the parking area at Breezemere Park, and the concerns of the Lakes and Ponds Committee about the possible effects on the Norton Pond water quality. They asked the two committees to discuss the issue when they meet in April.

The discussion about posting advisories when water quality monitoring yields unacceptable results was also raised. Selectmen asked the Lakes and Ponds Committee to return with information about a possible ordinance that would strengthen language used in posting advisories when high bacteria counts or other pollution issues present environmental and health hazards.