Town seeks new proposals for smaller garage

SOUTHWEST HARBOR  Since voters decided against spending $1.9 million on a public works garage, town officials are going ahead with a request for proposals for a smaller alternative, to start. 

Currently, there is $384,000 set aside in a capital improvement plan account for a new town garage, according to Town Manager Justin VanDongen. He told members of the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday night that may not be enough for what would be put forth as a much smaller plan.  

“What I would propose, if we’re going to do something this year, is to see if we can get a design build,” VanDongen said to the board during its meeting via Zoom. “We were thinking to remodel the existing office building and add a two-bay maintenance and washdown garage.”  

Following the voting results from the July 14 town ballot, where a request to fund the proposed public works garage failed by nine votes, VanDongen and Public Works Foreman Scott Alley worked to come up with an alternative plan.  

“The two-bay garage would go just to the right of where the office building now is,” VanDongen explained, “where the lean-to structure is that houses the two dump trucks… (We would) leave the old garage up until we have some additional funds to build some kind of storage building for the rest of the equipment.” 

On the town’s public works property on Seal Cove Road, the office building and a three-sided structure that houses two of the town’s plow trucks are located closest to the road. According to VanDongen, the school buses and other equipment would continue to be stored in the larger garage through the winter, but any work done on vehicles or equipment would be done in a newly constructed building.  

“So, maintenance is the critical piece?” newly-elected board chairman Kristin Hutchins asked VanDongen. 

Currently, the public works garage is insured for liability only. 

“I’m not comfortable having people work in that building with snow on the roof,” he replied. “I don’t know what the desire of the board is; which way you’d like to go. If you’d just like to rent space this winter. 

“Then, down the road we would look at where we could put a building that would allow us to store the buses cold and extra equipment and things like that,” VanDongen added. 

There were four bids when the last request for proposals went out for a garage design that included radiant floor heat, taller doors and roof to be able to extend the dump end of a truck to work on, as well as floor drains to capture snow melt and other liquids from the vehicles.  

“I thought that vote should go forward,” said Hutchins. “But the feedback we’re getting is that we’re spending too much money. So, it seems we are left with no choice but to do it piecemeal. I guess I’d rather build something than rent.” 

The rest of the board agreed and voted in favor of putting out a request for proposals for a design build.  

“Scott had heard some grumblings that the way the garage went out wasn’t the most cost effective, according to the contractors that bid on it,” VanDongen told selectmen, referring to Alley. “If they have some money-saving ideas, that would be an effective way to do it. It’s a much harder sell to have the contractor be responsible for both the design and the build.” 

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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