Orrington officials are looking to build a new $3.5 million public safety building at the corner of Center Drive and Tupper Drive that would combine fire and police. The current fire and rescue building (shown) on Johnson Mill Road was built in mid-1950s. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik

Voters in Orrington will decide Dec. 3 whether to spend up to $3.5 million on a proposal that would combine the fire station and police office into one building on Tupper Drive.

The vote will take place at a special town meeting at 7:30 p.m. at the Center Drive School.

The Board of Selectmen voted 4 to 1 Tuesday night to put a nearly identical question to residents as one previously proposed. The selectmen printed and signed the warrant immediately after the vote to avoid a repeat of a previous problem that delayed the special town meeting by six weeks.

Selectman Michael Curtis opposed the motion because of the removal of the name of Ames Associates from the warrant. That firm prepared the proposal presented at community meetings.

“People are expecting to vote on what was presented at the public meetings,” Curtis said.

More than 40 people attended Tuesday’s meeting. Tempers occasionally flared, but the consensus of those attending was that it was time for the public to weigh in on the plan. Some also expressed concerns about pushing construction into 2020 because of delays in finalizing the proposal and putting it out to bid.

The town had planned to hold a special town meeting on Oct. 23 so residents could vote on the proposal but could not do so because selectmen never received a warrant to sign, Chairman Keith Bowden said at Tuesday’s meeting. Previously published information said that selectmen neglected to sign the warrant.

At the Oct. 22 meeting board of selectmen’s meeting, petitions signed by 92 registered Orrington voters were presented to the board that asked that the vote be put off so less expensive options could be considered.

Selectmen agreed Tuesday that after the Dec. 3 vote, the board would appoint a committee to make a final recommendation on what kind of building would be constructed.

Allan Elkin, who helped circulate the petitions, told selectmen Tuesday that he did not want to start the planning process from scratch.

“I’m quite certain it can be done for less with different construction methods, like a metal roof rather than shingles,” he said.

Orrington residents aren’t going to approve the $3.5 million price tag for the building, Bruce Gray warned the gathering.

“My gut feeling is that if you put together a $3.5 million proposal, it will lose,” he said. “My instinct is that if you present one for $2.8 [million], it will probably pass and if you present one for $2.5 [million], it will definitely pass.”

Peter Schleck disagreed.

“I believe the town will support this as proposed,” he told the board. “If we want economic development, we need to make tangible investments in our infrastructure to support it.”

Signs lining Route 15, Center Drive and other well traveled roads in town indicate the community is split over how much should be spent on a new building. “Support Our First Responders, Vote Yes,” some say. Signs on the other side of the issue promise: “We Will Build It for Less.”

The proposed $3.5 million plan for a combined public safety building would house the town’s now separate police office and fire department building, which contain health hazards and code violations. The proposed 13,000-square-foot-building would be constructed at the corner of Center and Tupper drives.

The proposal would not affect the tax rate, as it would be funded from the combined municipal building reserve account, the tax increment financing account and the undesignated fund balance, officials have said.

Orrington has a history of wrangling over funding for municipal construction. In June 2008, voters approved a 1,200-square-foot addition to the historic town hall after refusing to fund the construction of a new municipal building hall.

The addition added a 34-foot-by-42-foot, two-story structure onto the backside of the historic town hall, where Tuesday night’s meeting was held.