BELFAST — Floor plans for a new Emergency Management Agency facility at the site of the Waldo County Reentry Center garden on Route 141 in Swanville are “in the works,” according to EMA Director Dale Rowley, and construction is expected to begin next spring.

“We’re trying to give it a farm motif,” he said, complete with a porch to blend in with the bucolic garden already there.

Rowley told Waldo County Commissioners Thursday, Oct. 21, an engineering firm has started drilling test borings at the Swanville site to determine what foundation type will be needed for three new buildings to house offices, garage and a storage warehouse.

“Right now we’re in the concept phase,” he said. “The plans are full of red lines.”

A more detailed design will be forthcoming, he said, which will offer more of the nuts and bolts. The EMA building and garage, Rowley estimates, will cost around $1.1 million, in addition to $1.5 million for the warehouse. He suggested to the commissioners that smaller parts of the construction plan, or those that cost less than $10,000 and thus do not need to go out to bid, be provided by local tradesmen. For example, he said, a fuel storage shed can be made by a local carpenter, as well as the cabinetry in the offices.

“We could save a lot of money by eliminating the general contractor on the project,” he said.

The new EMA facility will also provide storage in an additional 10,000-square-foot warehouse where food-storing equipment will serve the county garden to keep produce longer.

Water for the garden was also discussed at the  meeting. Rowley said that with all the rain the area received this year, irrigation was not an issue, but in other years, it has been.

“We looked at a full-out irrigation system,” he said, but found it was cost prohibitive. Rowley said he also looked at drawing water from the nearby Goose River, but the process would require “a lot of permitting.”

A grown-over farm pond was discovered on the property, which Rowley said could be cleaned out and lined to hold water. A study was done and it was determined the pond was man-made, he said. “We will still have to go through the Department of Environmental Protection for permits,” he said, but added that he thought this would be a good direction to go.

Commissioner William Shorey also suggested a deep water well with a pump to replenish the pond in the dryer months.

The county garden was started by Shorey in 2010, and the program produced 7,000 pounds of vegetables that first year. “We thought we were big guys,” he said. This year, he estimates the garden will produce well over 150,000 pounds of produce to be distributed to 30 locations around the county, including soup kitchens, churches and town food distribution networks.

On occasion, he said, the garden produces a bumper crop of certain things. A few weeks ago they put out cases of squash by the side of the road so local people driving by could pick up a box. “They are all gone now, but we put 14 to 15 pumpkins out by the road,” he added.

The program also takes special orders from towns with food distribution programs. Brooks, Searsport and Knox, along with the Waldo County YMCA, have all received produce from the garden.

The county garden is located on 63 acres of land owned by Waldo County, and residents of the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center volunteer their time at the garden Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Shorey said that for many of the Reentry Center men, it is the first time they have had to do a community service type of job. Many really enjoy it, he added.

And with the price of vegetables at stores, it makes good sense for everybody, Shorey said.  “It’s really a win, win, win, for everybody involved.”

Previously, Rowley said the idea for a new county EMA facility came from a brainstorming session with department heads and commissioners about long-term improvements to county government that could be made with ARPA funding.

The current EMA office is located at the Waldo County Sheriff’s Department, where space is at a premium. The idea would be to convert a garage at the sheriff’s building into office space, Rowley said. The District Attorney’s Office, which is currently at the former Superior Court building on Church and Market streets, would also move to the reconfigured sheriff’s offices.

Rowley said while the Sheriff’s Office is on board with the move, “everything is still tentative.” A possible move for the Waldo County Registry of Deeds, which is also housed in the former Superior Court building, “is up in the air.”

“We’re looking around town,” he said, for a suitable location for the deeds office in hopes of finding a buyer for the former Superior Court facility. “Once we are out of the design stage (in Swanville), we’ll start to look at Belfast,” he said.