Cumberland, North Yarmouth mull joint public works changes

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CUMBERLAND — Faced with maxed-out capacities at their public works departments, Cumberland and North Yarmouth are exploring joint solutions and shared amenities to reduce costs and redundancies.

Moving the School Administrative District 51 bus fleet from Cumberland’s 23 Drowne Road public works facility to an expanded North Yarmouth public works site was one option discussed at a Dec. 17 workshop with representatives from the towns and school district.

With both towns in need of updated wash bays and fuel islands, Cumberland could build the former, they suggested, while North Yarmouth could provide the latter about 3 miles away at its 40 Parsonage Road facility.

Given the fledgling nature of the talks, the actual cost of a joint venture in both communities has yet to be determined. The North Yarmouth Select Board on Tuesday, Jan. 15, could discuss the matter, and potentially vote to have Town Manager Rosemary Roy, Code Enforcement Officer Ryan Keith and Public Works Director Clark Baston draft plans and establish associated costs.

In the meantime, the Cumberland Town Council could decide Monday, Jan. 14, whether to endorse a plan to move the buses within the next two years.

“We’re talking at a conceptual level right now,” Cumberland Town Manager Bill Shane said Dec. 26. “We’re not anywhere near any kind of plan.” 

The move would free up about an acre at Cumberland’s Public Works Department. Town officials have grappled in recent years about what to do with the nearly 50-year-old garage on the property. 

The Town Council has considered several places for it, but each proposal has fallen through. Neighbors have opposed a vacant area north of the Cumberland Fairgrounds and next to the Town Forest, and a proposed area next to a riding club on Skillin Road received objections from neighbors in September.

Municipal operations would continue on Drowne Road, minus the fleet of 26 buses, Shane said. He also hopes this summer to move the facility’s compost and brush piles, which neighbors have said are eyesores.

“A smaller, scaled-down maintenance garage might be better than what we have now, between vehicles, brush and composting,” Shane said. 

Sevee & Maher Engineers – which has worked with Cumberland on alternate sites for its public works garage – has also developed a conceptual site plan for an expanded North Yarmouth public works facility, including space for the school buses.

“North Yarmouth has the most land available, and they have a concept which would add on to their existing facility and allow the buses to locate there,” Shane said.

Six service bays in a building at the North Yarmouth site would be shared by the town and school district. The three entities are also looking into building a shared, canopied fueling island.

Jennifer Speirs, chairwoman of the North Yarmouth Select Board, on Dec. 27 said town officials are well aware of the fact that their facility sits on an aquifer.

“When we talk about expansion of this site, we’re very mindful of the environmental impacts to the area,” she said, noting the way fuel islands are contained and engineered makes them appropriate for the town’s site.

Another potential shared use are the indoor wash bays for vehicles, which are necessary to prevent cleaning liquids from flowing over the ground and into catch basins, Shane said.

“We agreed that one facility could accommodate all three entities, which I think would save each of us money,” he said. “… Paying a third of the cost versus the full freight was very exciting.”

A wash facility in Cumberland “works well, because we’re on public sewer,” whereas North Yarmouth has none, Shane said.

A recent engineering study of all North Yarmouth’s municipal facilities concluded in part that “our public works facility needs a significant amount of work,” in terms of delayed maintenance, necessary upgrades, and expanded capacity, Speirs said.

“Those are the sorts of things that we’re starting to build into our long-range master facilities plan,” which dovetails into the capital reserve fund created last April, she added.

Noting Cumberland’s own public works conundrum, Speirs said, “we’re all kind of in this similar position, and trying to figure out how best we can all use our town resources.”

She noted the towns are connected through more than just SAD 51; they also have a library and recreation department together.

“It would be great to continue that tradition of sharing our resources,” Speirs said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

The Cumberland Town Council may endorse moving the School Administrative District 51 bus fleet from the town’s public works facility to neighboring North Yarmouth.

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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.