HALLOWELL — A step toward determining the future of the Second Street fire station was made by city officials Monday by authorizing a commercial appraisal.

Councilors voted 5-1, with Councilor Maureen Aucoin dissenting and Councilor Kara Walker absent, to approve $2,750 in funding for a commercial appraisal of the former fire station by Gorham-based Maine Valuation Co. A condition in the motion allows City Manager Nate Rudy to seek estimates for an appraisal of the city’s Public Works Garage and, if the deal is favorable, gives authority to the Finance Committee to OK more funding from the city’s general fund.

Rudy had recommended that the city use tax increment financing funds to pay for the appraisal. Aucoin, however, who has alleged that city staff mishandled TIF funds in the last three fiscal years, was not sure the expenditure would be allowed under conditions of the TIF agreement. To avoid that issue, Councilor George Lapointe said the money could be found in the general fund.

Rudy said he solicited bids from seven appraisers but only received three back. He recommended Maine Valuation Co., based on a $2,750 bid for “market value of real estate to be delivered in four weeks. The other bidders were Goulet and Associates, based on a bid $4,200 for a “fee simple valuation” to be delivered in five weeks, and C-Prime Valuation Group, which bid $4,500 for an “as-is valuation” to be delivered in 10 weeks. A memo included in the meeting materials said the bids were for “a basic, market value appraisal.”

Councilor Michael Frett said the fire station’s value is core to the council’s ultimate decision about what to do with the property. The building’s usage has been relatively dormant, aside from sporadic uses by committees and other working groups since the city’s Fire Department moved last summer into a new fire station in Stevens Commons.

“The issue of a valuation needs to get resolved … soon because the issue (of) the new fire station comes up every couple of weeks,” he said. “This is holding up some resolution having to do with that.”

Aucoin said she was uncomfortable with the price differences among the bids and could not tell what the differences were between the proposals from the bidders. Rudy said he would ask for a contract from Maine Valuation to determine what its work would include. Councilor Diano Circo, in response to Aucoin’s concerns, said that from his experience in working with appraisers, the discrepancy in bids is normal.

Aucoin also pushed for an appraisal for the public works garage, which Lapointe ended up including in the motion if a combination deal could be reached with the contractor. The city is considering improvements to the garage, which Rudy said last month is not big enough to house modern plowing equipment and has inadequate drainage when snow melts off vehicles.

A memo written by Lapointe in February said a full rehabilitation of the station, based on an August 2018 report, would cost $336,284, in addition to $220,600 in bond funds used to stabilize the building. The memo said the city spends about $20,000 a year to maintain the building.

Rudy and city Treasurer Dawna Myrick did not reply to requests for comment on the details of the bond by press time.

In February, residents said at a City Council meeting the city’s cost estimates for repairs were too high and the city should not sell the station. Lapointe said then that selling the fire station was “off the table.”

In March 2013, councilors voted unanimously that it was in “the best interest” of the city to “take steps to ensure the Fire Station building is maintained and preserved for the future … and that it remains under the care and supervision of the city … by ownership or covenant.”

One of the most frequently mentioned proposals for the fire station if it stayed in the city’s possession would be moving the city’s Police Department from the cramped space in the City Hall into the building. Lapointe’s Feb. 5 memo said that could cost an additional $170,000 to $250,000.

Aucoin floated the possibility of allocating general fund surplus to the relocation, but councilors disagreed. They instead approved a motion by a 5-1 vote, with Aucoin dissenting, to allocate any excess surplus to be carried over into the next fiscal year to reduce the tax burden. There was confusion between Aucoin and the city staff about the exact amount of excess surplus funds available to carry forward. Lapointe said the Finance Committee will determine that number in the future; the committee next meets at 6 p.m. Monday.

According to the city’s ordinance, any amount of surplus more than 15 percent of the previous fiscal year’s operating expenditures should be allocated to one — or a combination of — reserve accounts for “street paving, vehicle (and) equipment replacement, Public Safety building, Public Works building, City Hall building or to set aside to reduce taxes in the following fiscal year.”

Lapointe said he favored using the funds to balance the budget or pay for a new loader for the Public Works Department, which he said requires immediate repairs.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.