Skowhegan officials are withholding the final payment on the town’s $8 million public safety building on East Madison Road at Dunlap Lane until outstanding issues are addressed. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

SKOWHEGAN — The Skowhegan Police and Fire departments are expected to move soon into a new $8 million public safety building, but concerns remain that the building has several issues that need be addressed.

The Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 on Tuesday to have the town sign off on the project, meaning it has been completed and the departments can begin moving into the 25,500-square-foot building at the corner of East Madison Road and Dunlop Lane.

Town officials are withholding the final $20,000 payment while the contractor, Benchmark Construction of Westbrook, corrects flaws that continue to be identified, according to David Bucknam, the town’s police chief and interim town manager.

The contract also includes a one-year warranty, requiring that Benchmark address issues within the scope of the project’s plans, Bucknam said.

Skowhegan’s code enforcement officer, Bryan Belliveau, is leading efforts to identify problems with the building.

“When we bring it to their attention, Benchmark jumps right on it,” Bucknam said.


Even so, selectmen and residents raised concerns at Tuesday’s meeting about taxpayers footing the bill for what they say is a final product that has issues.

Selectman Steven Govoni, who owns an architectural and engineering firm, said his biggest concern is a silicone caulking used in the fire apparatus bay. The caulking leaks, which could lead to increased costs for heating the space over the building’s expected 75-year lifespan, according to Govoni.

“There was one spot where I could get my finger completely outside,” he said.

Corey Hight, a Skowhegan resident, presented 10 photographs to selectmen showing issues with the building’s exterior, including rusted areas. Selectmen and a town committee providing guidance on the building project saw only the interior of the building during a tour at the end of January.

“Why would we possibly accept anything that’s not ready?” Hight asked the Board of Selectmen.

Charles Robbins, vice chairman of the board, rehashed an argument previously put forth by opponents of the project: The building cost the town too much.


“We got a $3 million building that cost us $9 million,” said Robbins, who voted against signing off on the project and considering it complete. “I’ve been jaded from the start of it.”

Residents approved issuing $8.9 million in bonds for the building in a 2020 ranked-choice vote that also determined the location. A cash reserve of about $1.1 million was also set aside for the building. Construction began in 2022, months behind schedule, due largely to weather issues.

Bucknam said earlier this month that the building’s final cost was slightly less than its $8.25 million budget, although he did not have the exact cost.

He said Tuesday that issues with the building should be expected given the project was pared back significantly from its original proposal.

“We took a building that was quoted in at $10.9 million and we got it down to $8.2 million,” Bucknam said. “I know we’re all expecting to see a palace there, but there’s going to be some deficiencies there that we’re going to have to work on ourselves later down the road.”

Over the coming year, before the warranty expires, town officials expect to conduct another thorough review of the entire building to identify what need be fixed, Bucknam said.

“We need to move forward,” Selectman Chairman Todd Smith said. “We need to hold (the contractor) to their guns. Fix what’s wrong.”

In the meantime, the Police and Fire departments hope to take advantage of several improvements the new building offers, including an upgraded evidence room for police and individual sleeping quarters for firefighters.

Bucknam said the departments’ moves from the police station in the basement of the Municipal Building at 225 Water St. and the 120-year-old fire station at 16 Island Ave. could happen by the end of the month.

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