Scarborough studies rebuilding, expanding town buildings

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SCARBOROUGH — A draft of a long-range municipal facility plan includes proposals to expand the library and town hall, and build a new public safety building. 

The plan presented Wednesday sets priorities for projects that were divided into short-term goals – one to five years – and 10- to 25-year long-term goals.

As one of the “fastest-growing communities in greater Portland,” Scarborough is experiencing “consistent growth and development,” Town Planner Dan Bacon said at the March 2 Town Council workshop. In order to accommodate the “expectations around delivery of services … it’s important to plan ahead,” he said.

The town’s “consistent but dynamic growth has put a strain on existing municipal facilities,” according to the draft plan. 

The proposed plan itemizes the physical status of all municipal “bricks-and-mortar” facilities, with future plans and potential sites for possible expansion, and an estimated cost for each project.

The Scarborough Public Library, for example, built nearly 30 years ago, needs a 10,000-square-foot addition in the next five years. The extra space would provide more seating for the public, as well as more storage and staff space.

This project was identified by staff in the draft as a high priority and is estimated to cost between $4.5 and $5.5 million. 

A project to accomplish in the next five to 15 years, as outlined in the plan, includes construction of a 30,000-square-foot community center on the same campus that houses Town Hall, at an estimated cost of $9-$10.5 million.

Because rebuilding and expanding on current municipal infrastructure is a costly venture, Bacon said, the plan is to go at it from a variety of funding angles, which could include some public and private collaboration. 

The most expensive need in the town’s short-term plan is a 43,000-square-foot central public safety building adjacent to Town Hall that would be shared by the Police and Fire departments. The new facility could potentially replace the Oak Hill Public Safety building, at an estimated to cost of $13.5-$15.5 million.  

“It is a bit daunting when you look at these numbers,” Town Manager Tom Hall said,  “but I think it’s worse when we don’t plan for it.”

Councilors reminded residents that the plan is still in draft form, and no funds have been allocated. Depending on whether the council formally adopts the document, approval of each individual project will also require either council approval or public approval through a referendum, Bacon said. 

Councilor Peter Hayes emphasized the importance of getting constituents on board with the projects.

“How do we tell the story about these projects? We need to do a better job of communicating with our constituents about what we’re thinking (and) why we’re thinking it,” he said. 

Council Chairman Bill Donovan said the important questions to keep asking are, “What are the highest needs of the community and how can we do it in the most cost-effective way?”

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.