Yarmouth voters to decide on $8.5M public safety building

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YARMOUTH — Voters on Nov. 6 will be asked whether they approve of an $8.5 million bond to build a public safety facility on North Road. 

The Town Council on Aug. 16 also approved appropriating funds for a new harbormaster building and directed Town Manager Nat Tupper to draft potential lease agreements for the shared use of the Casco Masonic Lodge. 

According to town officials, a new public safety facility would solve spacial issues for both the police and fire departments, as well as Community Services. Under the proposal, the fire station at 178 North Road would be demolished and a new facility would be built to house both departments and an Emergency Operations Center.

The council was also to hold an informational meeting on Thursday, Aug. 23, when they were slated to receive public comment and respond to questions on a proposed two-part referendum asking voters to approve up to $52 million in bonds for the renovation of all four Yarmouth schools. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in Yarmouth High School’s cafeteria. 

After the meeting, the council will decide on a date to vote on whether to move the proposal to the Nov. 6 ballot. 

Moving the Police Department to North Road would open up space in Town Hall for Community Services, which has outgrown the portable classroom behind Town Hall where it’s currently housed.

The North Road fire station was built in 1976, when the town operated three fire stations; it was designed for “smaller apparatus.” Since then, fire and medical calls have increased four-fold, from approximately 400 in 1976 to 1,634 in 2017.

A 35-year-old modular building behind the station, previously used by the School Department, serves as office and living space for fire/EMS. 

According to Schiavi Mobile Homes, the life expectancy of the building was only 20 years. Much like Community Services’ building, the space was meant to be temporary.

If the voters approve the project in November, construction would likely begin in spring 2019 and be completed in spring 2020.

Harbormaster building 

Replacing the old harbormaster building at the end of Old Shipyard Road near the town landing and boat launch is expected to cost $250,000.

The town has already secured partial funding of $150,000 from the Economic Development Fund on the basis that the Harbor & Waterfront/Shellfish office plays a large role in Yarmouth’s economy. 

On Aug. 16, the council unanimously voted to appropriate up to $100,000 for the remainder of the projected cost by appropriating funds from tax increment financing or from surplus. The appropriation could also be limited, with the balance financed through other means, such as grants, donations or in-kind contributions.

Harbor and Waterfront Committee Chairman Steve Arnold said the new building will be constructed in the same location, but on a slightly larger footprint. He expects to see construction take place in the spring or fall of 2019, so it won’t interfere with peak boating season.

Masonic Lodge 

By unanimously endorsing conceptual plans for the shared use of the Masonic Lodge between the town, the Masons, 317 Main, and the Yarmouth Community Center, the council authorized Tupper to proceed and represent the town in the initiative, subject to final project approvals.

Under this proposal, the Masons would offer the town a 99-year lease of the lodge at 20 Mill St. for $1.

The Masons would retain use of the upstairs for meetings and events, but the town would be responsible for maintenance of the building.

The rest of the building would be shared, likely between the town, 317 Main and the YCC Steering Committee, although Tupper noted it might be a while before the committee is ready to enter into a lease agreement with the town. 

So long as the Masons always have adequate space to meet, the town would be free to sublet space in the building to other interested parties.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.