Cumberland eyes moving town garage to riding stables

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CUMBERLAND — A lingering question about where to move and expand the town’s cramped public works garage may finally be resolved.

After considering 18 places, including a vacant area north of the Cumberland Fairgrounds and one next to the Town Forest, a proposal to move the 23 Drowne Road garage to a riding stable at 68 Skillin Road will go to the Town Council Monday, Sept. 24.

If councilors approve, they will vote on a nearly $10 million bond for the project Oct. 8.

The owners of the Cumberland County Riding Club reached out to offer their property, Town Manager Bill Shane said Sept. 13.

The club’s show arena would remain as is. The garage, along with sand and storage sheds, and parking lots would be on land to the northwest. In return for the town being granted a 99-year, no-cost lease, it would build a 20,000-square-foot practice arena next to the show arena, a small building to house events, and upgrade electrical systems – at a cost of $200,000.

If the nonprofit club dissolves, the town would maintain the facilities for perpetual use by the public. The club would allow both arenas to be used as ice skating rinks in winter. Existing non-maintained trails could be improved for public access, according to Shane.

The move would occur in two phases. The first, aimed for 2019-2020, would include relocating the salt building along with a new sand building and the compost and brush.

That phase could cost $3.4 million, including the $200,000 for the stable amenities. It would be bonded along with a new $1.3 million fire ladder truck, for total borrowing of $4.7 million.

That could come as a relief to residents of Village Green, who have been vocal in their concerns about when the public works garage and the related facilities that neighbor them will be moved.

The second phase, which could cost $5.2 million, would see construction of a 12,000-square-foot public works building, which would house five 2,000-square-foot bays, lunch and locker rooms, a wash bay and office areas for town and School Administrative District 51 staff.

The town has planned the building in the event that the school system does decide to move its school buses – housed at the current public works site – to the new location. If SAD 51 opts out, the building could be scaled down, Shane said.

Both bonds together, including the fire truck, would total $9.9 million. The Town Council could be asked to authorize up to that amount Oct. 8, depending on next Monday’s conversation.

“All involved parties will be ready to move forward with the Skills Road Plan once the Town Council has approved Phase I,” Shane wrote in a Sept. 8 council memo, noting that the town’s bond counsel deems the inclusion of the fire truck in the total bond to be “the best strategy moving forward.”

Both the bond counsel and town attorney feel that presenting the entire project at once is “a good strategy so that multiple referendums would not happen each time the next phase was ready to move forward,” Shane noted.

The borrowing, phased to go online as current debt is retired, could add 61 cents per $1,000 of property valuation to the town’s tax rate over seven years.

Any council expenditure of more than $100,000 can be contested through a citizen referendum.

If the council approves the bonding, the Planning Board could meet on the matter next spring, with the first phase of construction complete in June 2020. The second phase could run from 2022-2024.

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

Cumberland officials are considering moving the town’s public works garage to vacant land northwest of riding stables at 68 Skillin Road.

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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.