Several years into the research, citizens on the committee charged with exploring options to build a new town office, or expand the existing one, are throwing their hands up in exasperation.

One has resigned the committee, and another appealed to the selectmen at their Sept. 12 meeting to get proactive.

“I know it can be done,” said Jay Foster. “But the negative aspects are overwhelming everybody.”

In a Sept. 1 letter of resignation, Municipal Building Committee member Mike Eugley advised the selectmen to put an addition on the existing town office and urged more involvement from the selectmen.

“Committees are great up to a point, but eventually if you want this project to get off the ground, someone with authority has to take the bull by the horns and get on with it,” he wrote.

Lincolnville has been wrestling with the future of the town office, a modest building constructed in the 1980s just west of Lincolnville Central School on Route 235 in Lincolnville Center. While it was spacious two decades ago, the meeting room was subsequently appropriated for a police and town manager offices, and storage room. The building is too small and unable to meet building and compliance codes, according to a 2009 Municipal Buildings Committee report, which recommended expansion.

But with a recession and skeptical town sentiment, the selectmen opposed placing more fiscal strain on taxpayers and voted not to place the $522,188 proposal before voters.

In March 2010, the selectmen asked the committee, which had been busy requisitioning contractors for a new fire station, to turn attention back to the town office project. The selectmen figured that lower interest rates and recession-priced construction costs signaled the right time to jump-start the process. They asked the committee to reexamine options for the town office.

Last October, the committee cited current building code compliance of the town office and delivered dim prospects for expanding both into the basement and the second floor. The codes result from the Americans with Disabilities Act, Maine Human Rights Act, International Building Code and the National Fire Protection Life Safety Code. Instead, the committee suggested building two wings on the existing town office to provide more work space for staff, as well as a meeting room.

At the same time, the committee surveyed 11 other potential properties for siting a new town office. They included the former Center Fire Station site, former Dean and Eugley and Millington properties, and the remaining land at the current town office site on Route 235.

The committee has been assisted by Monroe architect Robert Fenney, who has been working for free. He, along with a few other building committee members, attended the Sept. 12 selectmen’s meeting, and likewise urged definitive action from town leaders.

 

Potential sites

The list of possible sites was narrowed down to four and presented to the selectmen. They included:

Lincolnville Telephone Company, in Lincolnville Center: The committee determined it too confining for adequate parking.

Dean and Eugley site, on Route 52, across the street from the old fire station and former Center School, all properties now owned by the town. This site, according Fenney, has “a lot of problems,” including a foundation with an old fuel tank and possibly soil pollution. It would require additional environmental permitting, is tightly configured, and backs up to wetlands. “It is not impossible or insurmountable, but has costs associated with it,” said Fenner. There is little brownfield money left in Maine, he said. “It’s all challenge, and challenge means money.”

Property on the Thurlow Road, near the intersection of Routes 52 and 173. Building there would require a new retention pond, and it has wetlands. It is also steeper than what the committee hoped for and would require a two-story building.

Existing town office property. The town could expand the building, or it could build, renting trailers or moving office staff into offsite temporary quarters. The committee agreed that site had more advantages than other sites.

 

Lincolnville invites Gov. LePage for Center tour

On Oct. 11, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the Friends of Midcoast Maine and Orton Family Foundation are sponsoring a “Tools for Building Community: From Place-Making to Policy Changes through Public Engagement and New Partnerships,” in Lincolnville Center. The workshop, held with the town’s comprehensive plan committee, includes walks through the area, presentations of models and discussions about economic development.

An effort is under way in Lincolnville to re-energize its Center with enterprise and new homeowners, with the community recognizing the town’s center is losing energy. Citizens endorsed at town meeting in June the effort to reignite business and community efforts in the Center.

At the Sept. 12 meeting, Selectman Rosey Gerry suggested inviting Gov. Paul  LePage for the workshop, or at least a tour of the Center, and appeal to him for help in cutting through environmental red tape to get the Dean and Eugley site more accessible for a town office.

“We’ve been talking for years about revitalizing the Center,” he said. “What better gateway than the location of Dean and Eugley? We might be able to get help from the governor, given his relationship with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.”

Gerry advocated pursuing the site.

“We’re really trying in Lincolnville but are tied by so many rules and regulations,” he said.

“At what level of cost or expense is that site better,” asked Town Administrator David Kinney.

“We’re looking to rejuvenate the town center,” said Gerry. “We’re seeing more and more vacant lots in Lincolnville Center.”

“It comes down to the dollar signs,” said Jason Trundy, chairman of the board of selectmen.

Fenner said the town office site would be more cost effective, and the Dean and Eugley site was too small for 35 parking spaces.

“The building would have to go way over the bank and we would have to take a lot of that fill out, from a construction point of view,” he said.

Trundy advocated for being fiscally responsible and Selectman Stacey Parra agreed.

Committee member Paul Crowley said it would be more expensive to renovate than build a new office, and might be cheaper to build on a new site, suggesting the site search expand to Lincolnville Beach and points in between. He also suggested inviting proposals from the community.

“My own preference would be to do nothing,” he said.

Crowley also suggested looking for community development, or Orton Foundation, grants to help clean up the site and revitalize the village.

Foster urged the selectmen to get proactive.

“It is getting difficult to get the horse out in front of the cart,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do, and no problem doing it. We’re chasing our own tails.”

He asked for a financial commitment up front. Currently, the town has $450,000 tucked away for the town office. If the town added another $50,000 from the sale of town-owned properties, and borrowed $100,000, Lincolnville could get started, he said.

He suggested the selectmen back the effort. “It’s time. We’re spinning our wheels,” he said.

Crowley endorsed inviting the governor to town.

“It’s a good way to get the ball rolling,” he said.

Gerry agreed. “Ask the governor to come on Oct. 11 and buy him a Twinkie.”

On Monday, Sept. 19, Lincolnville sent an invitation to Augusta.