Works begins in Scarborough on budget-busting public safety HQ

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SCARBOROUGH — Officials broke ground last week on a new, much-anticipated – and more expensive than planned – public safety building.

The 53,000-square-foot Route 1 building will house police, fire, emergency medical services and emergency dispatch on town-owned property along the south side of the Scarborough Municipal Building.

The new headquarters will replace a 17,100-square-foot building down the street at 246 U.S. Route 1.

Work was expected to begin earlier this fall, but was delayed due to increased cost estimates, as well as a longer-than-anticipated wait time for a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection.

But on Oct. 18 the Town Council gave the OK to Town Manager Tom Hall and the Building Committee to move forward with construction, with confidence the town will find ways to bridge a $420,000 funding gap. 

And with the permit finally in hand, Hall said the town was set and excited to get to work. 

During the Nov. 8 ceremony, Building Committee Chairman Kevin Freeman said he was “proud” to be involved in building a new public safety facility and “humbled” to have led the committee, which formed two years ago. 

He tipped his hat to Police Chief Robbie Moulton and Fire Chief Michael Thurlow.

“The work that they did … is really what pushed it over the (finish) line,” Freeman said.

Thurlow thanked everyone involved in making the project possible. 

“Public service is an important thing in a community like ours,” he said. “That’s what builds our community and helps protect our community.”

Council Chairman William Donovan said there are few things more important to the well-being of a town and its government than public safety. 

“Everyone here today represents the best of Scarborough,” he said. “When I think about how this all came about … You can’t imagine how much work is associated with doing a project of this magnitude. It is tireless work.”

Last year, the project was estimated to cost just over $21.5 million. Voters in November 2017 approved a bond that is not to exceed $19.5 million.

The discrepancy between the two figures will be accounted for by approximately $625,000 set aside in reserve funds and proceeds from the sale of the existing public safety building and land near the Oak Hill intersection.

However, bid proposals showed the projected cost would be about $2.8 million over budget due to tariffs, labor shortages and other factors.

In the past few months, the committee has managed to eliminate $2.4 million worth of work without compromising the footprint or integrity of the building. But the project is still coming in about $420,000 over budget.

Hall said he expects to go back to the council early in the new year to identify any additional funding and sources needed. 

Originally, the town planned for a 15-month construction period, but with work delayed and the winter months just around the corner, Hall said he expects the project to be complete in February or March 2020. 

“(Nov. 8) was a beautiful day, (which will) hopefully harbor a successful project,” Hall said. “We’re anxious to get moving.”  

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Scarborough officials, staff and members of the town’s Building Committee broke ground on Nov. 8 for a new public safety building on Route 1. 

Fire Chief Michael Thurlow (left), Town Manager Tom Hall and Police Chief Robbie Moulton smile for a photo prior to last week’s groundbreaking.

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