AUGUSTA — Dozens of workers are stripping walls and replacing siding of the warehouse at 66 Industrial Drive that’s destined to be the new home for the state’s fleet maintenance operations.
“The intent is to have it done and move the fleet facility mid-fall,” said Dale F. Doughty, director of the Bureau of Maintenance and Operations for the Maine Department of Transportation. “Unfortunately, to get all this done in one summer it’s a very tight schedule. We want to be in there early enough and get everything up and running prior to winter.”
The project relocates fleet operations from Capitol Street near the State House to the north Augusta site not far from Civic Center Drive, and brings in regional offices and a radio operations and repair site currently occupying leased space elsewhere in Augusta.
Two contracts for the renovation and expansion of the 57,000-square-foot building that formerly housed Allen’s Transfer and Storage, a trucking company, were awarded last month.
The Sheridan Corporation of Fairfield and Portland was the lowest of five bidders for the construction work at $8.25 million. McGee Construction of West Gardiner was the lowest of four bidders for the earthwork at just over $1.6 million.
The project had a fully funded $10.5 million budget estimate, and Doughty said the hope is to recoup some of the money by selling the nine-acre site that touches on Capitol, Florence and Sewall streets, where fleet maintenance operations have been based. It was built in 1920 as a state highway commission garage. Over the years, with the introduction of larger and heavier vehicles, the state has outgrown that site.
Doughty said he’s heard there is some interest in the property, which is a block west of the State House.
“It has potential,” he said. A sale to a private entity is likely to return it to the tax rolls.
He said the department has other, smaller properties across the state that it is selling as well, so a request for proposals to market those parcels will be issued.
The scope of the work on the Industrial Drive building has changed since the department bought the site last year.
“Our intent originally was to save as much as we can,” Doughty said.
But that didn’t work out. A closer inspection of the building, which had been vacant for several years and flooded at one point, found that moisture had gotten into the inside vapor barrier and mold was found in the insulation.
“We determined it was cheaper to strip the walls and use new composite panels so the insulation and panels are all integrated components and will have a lot better longevity and be a lot safer,” Doughty said.
Most of the roof had to be removed as well. This week much of the structure was a red I-beam skeleton, with workers installing purlins, horizontal pieces of framing held up by beams and designed to support the roof.
The building footprint will be expanded to allow room for more offices, a sign shop, and a coatings and wash bay area that was built in modular components and will be moved to the site. Doughty envisions consolidating the heavy fleet garage plus Central Fleet Management and State Surplus, which handles resale of vehicles, at the site.
The department anticipates annual savings of $1.4 million with the consolidation, Doughty said.
In the meantime, trucks, excavators and forklifts have been operating at the site for the past few weeks.
McGee has done some land clearing on the site and will be building a gravel parking lot as well as grading the entire site.
The Sheridan Corporation workers are doing the building and are expected to be on site all summer.
Doughty said the neighbors have been apprised of the project and he is unaware of any of them complaining about the work.
“When we’re in there, it will be much quieter than this,” he said Thursday.