HALLOWELL — Officials from three central Maine municipalities met this week to start talking about working together to share resources with public works duties and more.

Meanwhile, the future of public works operations in Hallowell will be tied closely to an upcoming nonbinding referendum question on the November election ballot asking if voters would approve buying land for a new facility.

The Hallowell Public Works building on Water Street is seen in July. Kennebec Journal file photo

Hallowell City Manager Gary Lamb started the dialogue last year, shortly after he was appointed city manager. Farmingdale officials asked if Hallowell would consider plowing their roads, as they’re currently paying $10,000 per mile for independently contracted plowing services. The town has a road commissioner, but contracts for public works tasks.

Manchester has no public works staff and contracts all their services.

Meanwhile, Hallowell has a four-person public works department and is need of a new garage. The city has placed a nonbinding referendum question on the Nov. 8 ballot asking if voters would approve the acquisition of land for a new multi-bay public works facility “for an estimated amount of two to three million dollars.”

Lamb said Hallowell and the two neighboring towns could benefit from working together, and pitched the idea of a three-town summit in which officials could discuss collaborations of all kinds, including public works, the fire department, waste disposal and any other ideas officials may have.


On Monday night, about 20 municipal officials met at the Hallowell City Hall auditorium to start the discussion. Officials may not have all been in agreement on exactly how a future collaboration could work, but all of them were looking forward to working together in some capacity.

Hallowell Mayor George Lapointe cited a similar collaboration in which Manchester, Readfield and Wayne tried a similar public works collaboration more than a decade ago, but said it resulted in a loss of work for contractors who organized opposition to rescind the regional arrangement.

A news clipping from Feb. 11, 2008.

Lamb had previously suggested three possible sites for a shared three-town public works facility, should residents want to go forward with the idea: an empty lot behind an O’Reilly Auto Parts in Farmingdale, a parcel of land on Winthrop Street in Manchester and an area near Hallowell’s brush pile at The Res, a large outdoor recreational area. However, officials said Monday the land behind O’Reilly Auto Parts location in Farmingdale was no longer available.

Manchester Selectman Robert Gasper said that one of the difficulties in budgeting for public works is that while the staffing is somewhat predictable, even with overtime, there are unexpected expenses for vehicle maintenance, such as needing a new engine or tires. He added that there also wasn’t much work for the crew to do in the summer.

Lamb asked if he was satisfied with the status quo, and Gasper said that the way the town currently handles public works issues seems to be the most economical approach.

“I don’t think the status quo is going to work forever,” said Hallowell city councilor Kate Dufour. “We’re really at the whims of the market, and right now the market is insane,” adding that none of the towns have to lose their identity as a result of regionalization.


Farmingdale Selectmen Chairperson Doug Ebert suggested considering pitching a contract with multiple towns to a contractor, as this may result in multiple towns saving money.

Doug Ide, chairperson of the Manchester Board of Selectmen, said that while it seems like everyone has different ideas about the future of public works services, they could maybe consider a scalable site if the nonbinding referendum question in Hallowell passes. Lamb agreed, and said the new facility should be expandable.

The group also discussed possible collaborations with fire services, trash disposal and town assessing.

No future meeting dates were set, but officials said they were receptive to future collaboration in some form. Looking ahead, Hallowell will discuss this and other issues during a Nov. 2 workshop and also have a clearer picture of their public works situation following the Nov. 8 election.

“This three-town group will no doubt meet again for further discussion and investigation on these and other collaborative ideas,” Lamb said in a email to officials from the three communities. “It was a great example of what should be happening between neighbor towns all across Maine to help reduce the costs of government services.”

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