WINTERPORT, Maine — After years of saving money, Winterport town officials are hoping that the moment has come to build a $1.5 million municipal building that will provide a home to several departments.
If voters at the annual town meeting in June decide to approve the project, the new building would house the town office, the fire department, the public works department and the ambulance and rescue service, according to Winterport Town Manager Phillip Pitula. Property taxes or the mill rate will not increase because of the project, he emphasized, in part because the town already has squirreled away more than $200,000 for it.
The infrastructure for the major Central Maine Power project that brought power lines over the Penobscot River and through the heart of Winterport also has added to the community’s tax rolls, he said. That will help make the building project possible.
“It’s been a good boon for us,” Pitula said.
Currently, the town office is housed in an old schoolhouse that dates back to the 1920s.
“The bottom line — it’s an older building,” he said. “It’s a building that was saved from demolition a long time ago but never really brought up to speed.”
The fire department, located now in a 1970s-era building on Route 1, is simply outgrowing its space, he said.
“It’s full, and with federal and state requirements for training purposes, the building doesn’t really meet its needs, either,” the town manager said.
Winterport does not now have a dedicated public works building, so equipment is stored in different locations around town.
Pitula said that the Winterport Town Council has decided to sell the current town office, the town hall parking lot and the fire station and use the proceeds to pay down the balance of the new building loan. This year’s budget includes the first payment on the loan, which will be taken out for a term of 20 years.
“We are bringing a gross budget to our voters that is currently $18,000 less than last year, which will enable the mill rate to be unchanged,” Pitula said.
Pitula would like voters to know that the town will set a $1.5 million spending cap on the building, and that the 9,700-square-foot new building will be constructed on Route 1A, next to Olver Associates. The business has agreed to sell to the town the parcel that includes riverfront footage. It will be the first waterfront property the town owns. That’s exciting, Pitula said, and dovetails with the recommendation made a few years ago by the Winterport Development Committee.
“We had a vision plan of having an actual boardwalk that would start at the river and connect to the other walking trails in town,” he said. “We’re looking toward the future.”
The Winterport Annual Town Meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 12, at the Wagner School. Two informational sessions about the municipal building will be held on Thursday, May 15, and Thursday, May 29, both beginning at 7 p.m. at the town office.