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NORTH YARMOUTH — An expanded Public Works facility, which would house the entire School Administrative District 51 bus fleet, could cost $4.4 million, according to a conceptual site plan developed by Cumberland-based Sevee & Maher Engineers.
Debt service on a 20-year bond for the project would be offset by annual payments from SAD 51.
Discussions have taken place in recent months between officials in North Yarmouth, neighboring Cumberland, and SAD 51 on joint solutions and shared amenities to reduce costs and redundancies. Both towns are faced with cramped conditions at their respective Public Works garages.
The Cumberland Town Council on Jan. 14 unanimously endorsed moving the bus fleet from its crowded Drowne Road town garage lot to an expanded Parsonage Road facility in North Yarmouth.
The SAD 51 Board of Directors has yet to vote on the matter – a key step in whether North Yarmouth proceeds with exploring the project, Town Manager Rosemary Roy said in an interview Feb. 20.
“They’re waiting to make their official vote until they see the numbers,” she said.
SAD 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter said Feb. 21 that a date for that vote has yet to be set, and the board is waiting to review the concept design and costs.
With both towns in need of updated wash bays and fuel islands, Cumberland has proposed building the wash bays while North Yarmouth could provide the fueling station, uses which both towns and the school district would share.
North Yarmouth’s project numbers include an alternative option, with its own wash bay: that would bring the projected total to $4.8 million. Cumberland’s construction of its own bay would make that option moot.
“We basically are helping our neighbors,” Roy said of the bus fleet relocation, noting that Cumberland has been unable to find a location for a new Public Works and would, in staying put on Drowne Road, benefit from the extra space created from the buses being moved.
Plus the bus department’s relocation would restore a SAD 51 physical representation in town that has been absent since the 2014 closure of North Yarmouth Memorial School, Roy added.
North Yarmouth’s improvements are “desperately needed,” Select Board Chairwoman Jen Speirs has said, citing delayed maintenance, necessary upgrades, and a need for expanded capacity.
The project calls for a sea of new parking spots on what is now vacant land to the east of the current facility, which sits on 31 acres. There would be 36 for SAD 51 school bus drivers and vans, 16 for equipment and visitors, and 30 for buses, 12-by-40-feet each, which would have electrical hookups.
Attached to the current facility would be six new service bays – each 2,250 square feet – with three each for the town and school district. A SAD 51 office and break room building would be connected to the district’s bays.
While the Yarmouth Water District has supported the town’s own expansion, it has cautioned against the added vehicular load the bus fleet would bring to the site, which sits on an aquifer that feeds the district’s Hayes Well.
Were SAD 51 not to participate in the project, North Yarmouth would proceed with its Public Works capital improvement plan, Roy said, noting that “we have not revisited the financial plan but will if this falls through. We need to have a proper fuel island and additional bays.”
The project, which would ultimately have to be approved by North Yarmouth voters at Town Meeting, is still in preliminary exploratory stages, Roy noted, pointing out that its scope – and consequently its budget – could be pared down in the coming months.
The town would incur nearly 54 percent of the costs, and SAD 51 the other 46 – a reflection of how much of the project is dedicated to each entity. The town’s construction of a fueling station would cause it to bear more of the burden, although the town would receive revenue from SAD 51 and Cumberland vehicles that use it, Roy said.
Of the total $4.4 million cost, without a wash bay, North Yarmouth would incur nearly $2.4 million of the burden, and SAD 51 would pay about $2 million. SAD 51’s cost would also be partly borne by North Yarmouth, from which about 28 percent of the school district’s taxes are assessed. The other nearly 72 percent comes from Cumberland.
The school district would also pay to lease its portion of the facility, and chip in for maintenance costs, Roy said.
North Yarmouth voters’ consideration of the proposed expansion will likely be affected by new debt service for two recent major projects.
The first-year full payment impact of North Yarmouth’s under-construction Wescustogo Hall & Community Center, nearly $286,000, hits in fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1, 2019.
And the first major payment of SAD 51’s Greely Center for the Arts arrives in fiscal year 2021. The district’s debt service that year is due to increase by about $387,000, of which North Yarmouth will pay 28.1 percent, or nearly $109,000, according to SAD 51 Finance Director Scott Poulin.
Debt service for each project would decrease each subsequent year over the life of their bonds.
Cumberland Town Manager Bill Shane has said it could be two to four years before the bus fleet relocation occurred. In light of that, and to spread out the inaugural years of debt service payments, Roy has proposed the first year of a public works bond come in fiscal year 2022.
Estimated debt service for that first year could be about $364,000, with North Yarmouth paying nearly $196,000 and SAD 51 funding about $168,000.
This conceptual site plan of North Yarmouth’s Public Works lot shows existing and proposed facilities. In red are the current service bays, maintenance office, and salt storage shed. In yellow are three proposed new service bays for town usage, a new fuel island and a relocated equipment storage building. In blue are three proposed new service bays that would be used by School Administrative District 51, as well as new associated office and parking spaces.