- Police Beat
- The Forecaster
SOUTH PORTLAND — City councilors Tuesday unanimously approved first reading of a text amendment and zoning map change for a new Cash Corner Fire Station, in preparation for a $7 million bond referendum June 11 to finance the project.
The Planning Board voted 4-0 to recommend the changes on May 8.
Officials say the fire station, built in the 1970s at 360 Main St., has mold problems, inadequate ventilation and is approaching the end of its life cycle.
“The mold is a serious problem we’ve been aware of for a while, and we need to do something about it,” Fire Chief James Wilson said. “We’re working through it and hopeful we get support of the citizens because it’s a much needed station and its location is strategically important to us.”
According to Assistant City Manager Joshua Reny, the engineering team for the project indicated the current proposed zoning parcel spans two zones, with the front half in a Limited Business District, and the rear half is in a Residential A District.
“We’re essentially getting our ducks in a row, so if the people demonstrate concern for the fire station and vote in favor of the bond referendum, we’ll have everything done ahead of time,” said Reny. “The project would move quickly thereafter, and that’s important because there are significant safety concerns and we don’t want to delay.”
The existing station is 7,400 square feet; its replacement will be more than twice that, at 17,000-square-feet, and will require discontinuing a portion of Rumery Street.
It would provide space for an additional rescue unit and allow the call station on Union Street in Thornton Heights to be shifted to Cash Corner.
The new building will sport a traditional-style fire station look, with masonry brick on the outside, and the possibility of solar energy panels on the roof.
The decision to demolish the existing station rather than renovate the building stems from the results of a 2017 Indoor Environmental Quality assessment that concluded “significant remediation and renovations would be needed to address the extensive mold accumulations in wall cavities, ceilings, insulation, and other surfaces.”
The bond referendum had a first reading April 2. A public hearing was held April 16. At both meetings, the City Council voted 7-0 to send the question to voters.
The borrowing would appropriate $6 million, to be repaid over 20 years, to replace the current fire station with the new one. The remaining $1 million, to be paid over 10 years, would be allocated for work at the Central and West End stations, as well as the Police Department on Anthoine Street.
According to city Finance Director Greg L’Heureux, the bond debt service is estimated at $2.38 million and will add at least 15 cents to the property tax rate.
Resident Albert DiMillo Jr., a frequent critic of city spending who has posted signs throughout the city opposing the bond, said the decision to borrow $7 million doesn’t make sense. He claims there is a reservoir of $63 million in cash available to pay for the fire station renovations.
But Capt. Robb Couture, the Fire Department public information officer, said the borrowing is necessary because the reserve funds are not eligible for this project.
Final council action on the zoning proposal is expected June 4.
If voters approve the bond referendum, the city would have to file an application with the Planning Department for project review. If the process goes smoothly, construction could begin between October 2019 and December 2020, and the new station could be ready for occupancy in 2021.
South Portland voters could decide June 11 to borrow $7 million to replace the city’s Cash Corner fire station.
An overhead sketch of the proposed new Cash Corner fire station in South Portland shows how it would fit on the present fire station property, and require some space on Rumery Street.