Yarmouth voters may face 2 bond referendums in 2012

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YARMOUTH — Residents may be voting on two significant spending projects next year: a $4.8 million public works building and a $2.4 million artificial turf athletic field.

The Town Council on Aug. 18 voted to appropriate $100,000 from surplus to move forward with site work needed to design a new town garage on North Road. The building could cost nearly $5 million and the public will vote on borrowing next June.

Councilors also endorsed “in broad concept” the need to replace the turf field at the high school. The project is estimated to cost $2.4 million and the referendum could be scheduled for November 2012.

According to Scott Teas of TFH Architects, the plan is to design a low-maintenance public works facility that could be easily heated and cooled and would save energy. The final report provided by the design team of Teas and Ryan Senatore of TFH and Will Conway of Sebago Technics says the existing maintenance bays are compromised by lack of storage areas and are not equipped for washing vehicles.  The administrative areas are inadequate and lack a visitor or public reception area.

Of the three options presented by the design team, the council supported Option C – a nearly 19,000-square-foot building that that would provide space for public works and School Department needs. This option would displace one Little League baseball field and provide on-site school bus parking. The building would be oriented parallel to North Street.

Town Manager Nat Tupper said the the new building would create efficiencies in manpower, operations, physical design and energy costs.

He said while construction would be costly, he has anticipated the natural retirement of bonds over the next several years.

“We have tried to schedule this work and the work on the turf field such that you will not see a net increase for debt service costs for the town and school combined,” Tupper said. “We will continue to see that go down, (although) obviously without this it would go down faster and more.”

Councilors voted to appropriate up to $100,000 from surplus for engineering and architectural design work, site planning and project development, with the understanding that additional engineering, design, construction development and regulatory review costs will need to be funded at a later date.

For the turf field project, Tupper said the council’s Aug. 18 vote is an endorsement of work to be done and acknowledgement that the Town Council will work with the School Committee to discuss engineering and design costs and funding options.

Tupper said the project is in a conceptual phase, but the council needs to design a “thoughtful plan” for design, management and cost of the proposed project.

He also explained that since bonds issued in 1991 for the sewer treatment plant and Harrison Middle School are retiring, the town and schools will see a significant drop in next year’s budget. He said while that is “wonderful news for us for next year’s budgeting,” it will only last one year.

So, instead of giving residents a significant tax break for one year, Tupper suggested filling in that one-time dip with a capital appropriation to help repair the road, sidewalk and drainage problems on Hillside Street.

He said he doesn’t think people will be thrilled about funding the turf field the following year, but hopefully they will see the necessity of the project.

“Politically, I would think, the town would be much more supportive of us saving money for road projects than saving money for turf field projects, especially when we’re still paying the debt service on the original construction,” he said.

He said if the Hillside project is not funded in this way, it would have to come out of the public works budget, which could delay other paving projects.

“Our debt service is going to decline regardless,” Tupper said. “I think it would be a mistake to take a little spree here and have fun with it for one year because we will pay for it dearly a year later.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.

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