Water district questions possible North Yarmouth public works plan

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Expansion of the town’s Public Works facility took a step forward last week, when the Select Board unanimously authorized Town Manager Rosemary Roy and engineers to firm up the scope, basic design, and estimated cost of the project.

The Yarmouth Water District, however, is cautioning the town about the magnitude of the possible project, which sits above a key aquifer.

North Yarmouth expects to spend about $4,000-$5,000 from contingency funds to have Sevee & Mahar further develop a site plan for expansion of the 40 Parsonage Road facility. Roy hopes to bring the new information back to the board by its Feb. 19 meeting.

Meanwhile, Roy will continue discussions with officials in Cumberland and at School Administrative District 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 a fleet of 26 school buses from the town’s Drowne Street garage to North Yarmouth’s facility, about three miles away.

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, with both towns and the school district sharing the uses – possibilities that were discussed at a workshop last month.

Six new service bays in a building at the North Yarmouth site could be shared by the town and school district, according to a preliminary site plan developed by Sevee & Mahar.

A recent engineering study of all the town’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, Select Board Chairwoman Jen Speirs said in an interview last month.

She called the improvements “desperately needed” at the Select Board’s Jan. 15 meeting.

But Matt Reynolds, a Yarmouth Water District geologist, said the utility is concerned about the impact that 26 buses will have on the aquifer that feeds the district’s Hayes Well.

“It’s a very sensitive site, and there are certainly engineering controls that could be put in place and should be put in place, but those engineering controls have a limit, and so the district is very concerned,” Reynolds said.

Speirs told Reynolds she appreciates the water district’s early involvement in the discussion, and noted that the town is in “very preliminary stages” in terms of developing a plan for the site.

“The water district interest in protecting our water is the same interest that we have here,” she said. “We have other interests, too, that we have to balance, so that’s one thing that this board will do as we move forward. … This conversation will be ongoing, no doubt.”

Steve Gorden, a North Yarmouth resident and Yarmouth Water District trustee, said the utility has to be included in those discussions.

“This is a four-government solution,” he said, noting that the Hayes Well “is your water supply. If something happens to that, then we’re all in a world of hurt, and nobody wants that.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 780-9085 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

North Yarmouth is exploring expanding its Public Works facility.

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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.