2016-08-05 / Front Page

Arundel asks for resident feedback

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

ARUNDEL — Arundel Town Manager Keith Trefethen wants his phone to ring.

He’s not too particular on whether local residents are calling to praise a course of action selectmen might take, or to damn it, he just wants to know what the public thinks.

Selectmen feel the same way, and, so, at their most recent meeting, elected not to take any action on two pending actions — moving town hall and hiring a second Sheriff’s deputy — until they have a clear picture of what the public wants.

Town hall move

“I may sound like a broken record, but I think we need more public input on both sites,” Selectman Thomas Danylik said at the July 25 board meeting. “The town hall, it’s going to be a tough sell, regardless, and we’d better have as many people weigh in as we possibly can, before we take it to town meeting. I think we need some help from the citizenry here on what they think.”

“I just want to make sure we don’t get into a ‘paralysis by analysis’ situation here, because we’ve already been talking about this for many years,” Selectman Dan Dubois said. “We’re at a point now where we’ve got two pieces of property, where it seems like it’s a wash. I don’t think one stands out over the other.”

More than two years after approving plans for a new town hall, and setting aside funds to build it, Arundel selectmen still face a debilitating problem — where to put it. However, after juggling a host of potential locations, two finalists have emerged.

One is a 4-acre field on Limerick Road. That one has arguably garnered the most support among selectmen, in part because of its proximity to the center of town, and the current town hall. It also won broad support from about 140 residents who completed a survey on possible town hall locations circulated in early 2014.

The other is a 10-acre parcel already owned by the town, adjacent to Weirs Motor Sales off of Route 1.

That lot, donated to the town “many years ago,” according to Trefethen, is a former dark horse candidate, which emerged as a front runner after selectmen dismissed another Route 1 site long under the microscope.

That site has some setbacks. For one, only about an acre of the lot is easily developable, with the rest comprised of a rocky ledge. Also, it does not sit directly on Route 1, depending on a 50-foot-wide right-of-way for access.

However, abutting landowner Jim Plamondon — owner of Aube-Plamondon electrical contractors, and a commercial electrical inspector for the town — recently came forward with a proposal to gift half of his 2.13-acre lot to the town.

In return, he asked that he be allowed a curb cut for a driveway onto the new street the town would build over the right-of-way from Route 1 to the new town hall. Plamondon’s current driveway is partly on that right-of-way and partly on a small spur from his lot, which has 50 feet of frontage on Route 1.

Plamondon said he would sell that small plot to James Trenalange, who would like it to widen and improve the lot his dental office is located on, at 1389 Portland Road.

The gift carries a couple of pluses for the town hall plan, apart from the free property. It means the town office complex can be built closer to Route 1, shaving about 100 feet off of what would have been a new 400-foot-long street.

It also provides enough extra space for a traditional septic system and leach field. Without the extra land, and because of the ledge, the plan had been to bury the septic system under the town hall parking lot.

According to a new estimate prepared by Sebago Technics vice president and landscape architect, Will Conway, the Plamondon gift helps to drop development costs at the Route 1 site by $159,600 — to $816,259.

Site preparation costs of the Limerick Road property, by contrast, had previously been pegged at $610,052.

“They’re virtually identical, with the cost to purchase the Limerick Road site,” Trefethen said. “We’ve had some talks and estimates and thoughts of that cost might be, but nothing is concrete now.”

However, on Monday, property owner Steve Emerson said the offer has been set, at $200,000 for the 4-acre field. That would make the Limerick Road property an $810,052 proposition — “virtually identical,” as Trefethen said, to the $816,259 cost to build off Route 1.

However, Emerson said he and his wife Margo have also offered the entire 39- acre lot to the town for $375,000. That ask was originally $350,000, he said, but over the winter the town instituted a new one-acre minimum lot size in the area, which caused him to incur new engineering costs in calculating the highest and best use for the property.

Although that use would almost unquestionably be to sell the parcel to a developer intent on putting in 38 houses, Emerson said he and his wife, who live next to the site, would prefer to sell it all to the town.

“To developer it’s a pretty good investment, and I’ve got a few interested,” Emerson said. “But personally, I would like to see the town hall there, just because it’s not open most nights and weekends, and the town would probably preserve the rest of the property.”

Emerson noted the site could play host to a trails network that could connect to the Eastern Trail, provided access is given over land now owned by Selectman Phil Labbe, while a public easement over a second parcel would mean access to the Kennebunk River.

“I just think that it would be nicer than having a development in there,” Emerson said. “Right now, we’re just waiting on the town to come to a decision.”

But two people at the July 25 selectmen’s session — Sam Hall and Jack Reetz — said deciding between the two potential town hall sits should come down to more than mere dollars and cents.

Together, they presented selectmen with a template for an “evaluation criteria checklist,” for a new town hall site.

Because any new town hall will serve Arundel for the next couple of generations, at least, they said factors to consider, in addition to cost, include finding a central location, packing in amenities future residents will need, with an eye toward “value,” as well as raw cost. Other factors include designing the new building to give townspeople a “sense of community,” provide visitors with a positive image of the town, and act as a “magnet” for new business growth.

“We suggest it is time to take a longer and deeper view of this issue,” Hall said. “Is cost really the only factor that should be considered? We think not and suggest that it is critical that the selectmen, as stewards of the well-being of our town, think also about what this new community facility can mean for our future.”

Selectmen agreed to have Trefethen work with Hall and Reetz to develop and refine their idea for a scoring matrix to compare the two town hall sites, which can then be shopped out to the public for comment.

Once that document is in hand, a public hearing will be set to gather more input, they said, adding the hope is to solicit as much feedback as possible through that hearing — likely to take place later in the fall — by soliciting comment through the town website, The Arrow newsletter, and local newspapers.

Meanwhile, Reetz said he understood the scoring system he and Hall suggested will add yet more time to a decision that’s been more than a decade in the making.

“All of this talk about a new town hall really started about 12 years ago,” he said. “I’m just hoping I live long enough to see it built.”

Sheriff’s deputy

Selectmen also are asking townfolk to weigh in on the possibility of hiring a second York County sherriff’s deputy to provide full-time dedicated law enforcement coverage to the town.

At the annual town meeting in June, voters raised $80,000 to contract with the sheriff’s department to post one deputy in Arundel exclusively for 40 hours per week. Part of that deal also calls on the town to supply the cruiser used by Deputy Greg Sevigny. This year the town ponied up $33,000 to replace his old ride, a 2012 model with more than 100,000 miles on it.

However, the biggest debate during that vote was reportedly talk of a need to hire a second deputy. Selectmen followed through on that by inviting Sheriff William King and Chief Deputy Tom Baran to give a presentation at their July 11 meeting.

Afterward, Trefethen obtained a price estimate from York County Manager Gregory Zinser.

The cost of a second deputy, Trefethen reported at the July 25 selectmen’s meeting, would fall between $82,972 and $99,242, depending on the experience level of the deputy assigned to the Arundel beat. That’s a little more than the town pays now, Trefethen said, because Deputy Sevigny does not get his health coverage through the county.

Meanwhile, a second deputy would mean also buying a second 2017 Ford Interceptor SUV, fully tricked out for police work, at $33,752. However, Trefethen said Zinser were amenable to a lease deal that would split the cost over three years, although that would mean adding 2 percent to the base cost in interest.

At those numbers, Danylik said there really was not all that much support for the second deputy.

“We didn’t have great attendance at town meeting and, really, we only heard from two or three people, tops, on this,” he said. “I think we need more public input. What we did hear came from the business community, I think, and we really need to hear from the residents on whether they want that.”

That may not be the case, Selectman Velma Jones Hayes said. The last time selectmen floated the idea of hiring two deputies, she said, residents nearly “turned everything down.”

Trefethen said that, “worst-case scenario,” a second deputy would push the cost of local law enforcement to 33-cents per $1,000 of assessed value on tax bills, if rolled into the 2017-2018 annual budget to be voted on next June.

“Let’s get it out there, let people know we’re talking about it, and she where it goes from there,” Jones Hayes said.

“We’ve heard some thoughts, but I don’t think we have comment from a big-enough cross section of the pubic yet to act,” Trefethen agreed.

If enough comment is submitted to town hall indicating genuine interest in the possibility of expanding sheriff deputy patrols through town, whether for or against the idea, selectmen may schedule a public hearing on the issue.

That meeting would most likely happen in September or October, if needed, Trefethen said. Otherwise, some selectmen said, a lack of feedback may well be viewed as contentment with the status quo.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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