Orrington residents on Monday approved by a vote of 380 to 75 a proposal to construct a $2.85 million public safety building at the corner of Tupper and Center drives after rejecting a more expensive plan in December.
Thirty-four fewer voters cast ballots Monday than seven months ago when residents rejected a $3.5 million proposal by a vote of 255-234 at a special town meeting.
This time, voters cast secret ballots as they did recently in an election for school board and the Board of Selectmen. The secret ballots had been expected to increase, not decrease, turnout.
Work on the new public safety building is expected to begin in late August or early September. The building should be completed by next summer.
There was no organized opposition to the proposal unlike seven months ago, when signs bearing competing messages sprang up around town. Voters also said they were better informed about the plans because of posts on social media and a mailer sent to every residence last week.
The major difference between the rejected plan and the revised one is that the $2.85 million cost includes money already spent for designs and preliminary site work, the cost of construction and everything that will go inside the new building from appliances to desks to beds, according to state Rep. Dick Campbell of Orrington, who chaired the committee that recommended the plan.
Allan Snell, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said after Monday’s ballots were counted that he was pleased with the results.
“Now we can move on and get it done,” he said. “I want to thank all who worked on the options committee. They did a great job getting the information out there.”
Firefighters on Monday morning spray painted the grass and staked out the property where the building would sit on the land with a fire truck parked where the three-bay garage would go. Floor plans and a drawing of the exterior were on display.
Members of the department offered grilled hot dogs, chips and sodas between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. for people who stopped by with questions about the proposed building. About 85 people stopped by, according to fire department personnel.
The parents of Allan Elkin, who led the effort in December to construct a less expensive building attended the firefighters’ barbecue Monday after casting their ballots. Ronald and Elaine Elkin, both 87, said they voted against the $3.5 million plan in December.
“Last time, [the building committee] kept everything a big secret,” Ronald Elkin said. “Before it was a totally closed process. The selectmen didn’t even know what they were doing.”
His wife agreed that the process was very open under the reinvigorated committee, on which their son served.
The controversy over the public safety building in December divided the community and set in motion a series of disputes that played out on social media. A recall effort fizzled against two selectmen perceived to have opposed the $3.5 million plan.
The selectmen’s firing of Town Manager Joan Gibson after two months on the job angered residents who felt she was not given a chance to learn the job. Residents who began an effort to recall the selectmen who voted to fire her ultimately dropped the effort.