OAKLAND — The early stages of construction of the town’s new $2.6 million fire station have begun.

Town Manager Gary Bowman said the snow earlier this week caused some delays but that the lot on Fairfield Street is cleared, fill is being hauled in and Central Maine Power Co. and Consolidated Communications will be working on wiring Thursday morning. He delivered the news Wednesday night at a Town Council meeting.

Councilors also unanimously voted to accept and sign the bond for the project on Wednesday.

“It’s too early to tell exactly where this is going to come in, but right now. .. we’re feeling pretty good about things,” Bowman said about the costs of the project. “It’s been an uphill push, for sure. We’ve worked like hell to get this thing going. Our crew is really giving 150 percent on this. … We’re trying to save as much money on the front end of this project as possible, because as you know, things come up. The more money we save from the get-go, it’s going to be beneficial down the road.”

Bowman said bids for mechanical, electrical, foundation, framing, roofing, windows, door lights have gone out and that he is “starting to get stuff back on that now.”

Voters approved the $2.6 million bond for the new firehouse on Election Day in November 2018. The 12,000-square-foot building is being constructed on land next to the existing station that has been donated by Messalonskee Stream Hydro.

Bowman also told the council that he and Code Enforcement Officer Dave Savage are looking into the possibility of replacing light fixtures at the town library with LED fixtures, which is expected to shave $175 off the town’s monthly electricity bill. He said the library accounts for a third of Oakland’s municipal electricity bill and that converting to LEDs would cost about $4,000 to $5,000. No action was taken on the subject on Wednesday, but Bowman said it will be discussed in more depth at a future meeting.

“In the same breath, we’re looking at solar panels for the landfill,” Bowman added.

Ryan Johnston, an Oakland firefighter who also works as a rescue technician for Waterville, requested $540 to cover the cost of an out-of-state ladder training program. Councilors decided to allocate $270 — half of the requested money — to Johnston, with the hope that Waterville would cover the remaining half. Bowman told the council he did not think it was fair for Oakland taxpayers to pay for the entire training fee when it would also benefit Waterville residents.

“I agree with you,” Councilor Don Borman said. “However it works out, we should not just leave it up to him but share with (Waterville) the importance of collaborating on stuff like this.”

The Oakland-contributed money will come from the Fire Department’s training budget, which has a balance large enough to accommodate the request, Bowman said.

“Chief Coughlin thinks that it’s going to bring a benefit to his department,” Bowman told the officials. “Any training does, really. These guys are training all the time, and when you start to get specialized training, it’s (valuable). … When you get these house fires, ladders are involved, so it brings a benefit to us.”

Nutting noted that if Johnston cannot secure any money from Waterville, he could submit a second request to the Oakland Town Council for consideration, but that “he ought to make the ask.”

Borman reported that with the towns of Sidney and Mount Vernon having voted to join the Dam Committee, costs for Oakland’s involvement will decrease. The committee, which advises constituent municipal bodies on dam maintenance and water levels in the area, currently includes Rome, Belgrade and Oakland. Borman said the group is planning to “re-position the percentage that the five towns will (contribute)” at an upcoming meeting.

For the second year, councilors voted to give the Central Maine ATV club access to a roughly half-mile portion of Gagnon Road that runs through the town. The decision was unanimous after Bowman stated that the police did not report any problems with the club’s use of the road in the past. Shirley Fenlason thanked the town for helping to maintain the Messalonskee Stream Trails and encouraged Oakland residents to make use of the roughly 40-mile network. The council also voted to renew a liquor license and special amusement permit for The Thirsty Mule, a bar on Old Waterville Road.

Later in the month or at a meeting in May, Bowman said, the council will review a new cable contract to replace the current 10-year contract with Consolidated Communications, which expired April 8. It probably will be with the same company, though Bowman and Finance Director Doug Mather are in the process of negotiating a contract for the officials to review. While the contract is expired, service will continue to be provided under the terms of the old contract, without penalty, Bowman said.

Councilor Harold Buzzell was absent.


Meg Robbins — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @megrobbins

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