Club nixes proposal to move Cumberland DPW to fairgrounds

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CUMBERLAND — Concerns about future space needs and traffic impact led members of the Cumberland Farmers Club to almost unanimously reject the town’s proposal to move the Public Works Department to part of the Fairgrounds property at 197 Blanchard Road.

Although a vote of the membership had been planned for the club’s annual meeting in December, enough members were in attendance at the Oct. 10 monthly gathering to prompt a vote, club President Mike Timmons said in an interview Tuesday.

Forty members voted against the move, with longtime member and Town Councilor Bill Stiles abstaining, Timmons said.

The town’s desired site was about 10 acres in the western corner of the Fairgrounds property, about 1,700 feet northwest of Bruce Hill Road and adjacent to a Central Maine Power Co. power line corridor. The land is used for overflow camping and housing for carnival workers during the annual fall fair.

Town Manager Bill Shane on Monday called the decision “totally understandable,” noting how busy the annual Cumberland Fair was last month, with overflows in parking prompting concerns about where those vehicles would go if the Fairgrounds gave up the 10 acres.

Shane said the town will have to begin a new search for a place to move its public works facility.

The club’s decision followed concerns about the move expressed by residents at the Town Council’s Sept. 25 meeting. The impact to taxpayers, the location of an industrial-use facility at a fairground, and traffic, noise, safety, costs and environmental issues were aired that evening.

Along with the parking concerns triggered by the crowds at this year’s fair, a potential hike in traffic on Blanchard and Bruce Hill roads from a public works garage also convinced club members to reject the town’s proposal, Timmons said.

The Fairgrounds added 11 acres a few years ago, and is not interested in giving up any land, he said.

“We like the town. We work with them, and they help us a lot,” Timmons said. “We’ve put on programs that have been positive for our whole community. And in order to keep that, we need to keep the land.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

The circled area is where a new Cumberland Public Works Department facility was proposed at the Cumberland Fairgrounds, until the Cumberland Farmers Club overwhelmingly rejected the plan.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.