By Chris DeBeck
Howland – A new fire station and town office complex is closer to reality following approval at a special town meeting Tuesday February 11, 2020.
By a 35-5 vote, Howland voters gave the town’s select board the authorization to move forward with the project, including soliciting and awarding bids and construction.
“It’s a major step for the town of Howland,” Town Manager David Lloyd said following the town meeting.
Previousy, Town Manager David Lloyd estimated the cost of the new building at $3.4 million, with the project financed over a 30 year period, which could increase the town’s mil rate by $2 per $1,000 of property value.
At Tuesday’s special town meeting, Lloyd distrubuted a chart showing the impact of a two mil increase on a home’s property tax bill. A home walued at $100,000 would see a $200 annual increase in it’s tax bill, for example, or $16.67 per month, according to the chart.
A note at the botom of the chart also noted that Maine offers a $22,000 homestead exemption for qualifying households in 2020, a figure that will increase to $25,000 in 2021, which will help reduce tax bills.
Lloyd said that he has spoken to a local bank about obtaining a construction loan, which would be used to pay for the project. As work nears a conclusion, the town would then go to Maine Bond Banks for a 30 year bond.
“Bond rates are very, very attractive,” Lloyd noted. “I think it’s a good time to move the project forward.”
The buidling will house the town’s fire department, with bays available for ambulances and fire engines, as well as office and living space, all of which are in short supply at the town’s current fire station on Willow Street.
“Theres just no room” in the current fire station, Howland Fire Chief Josh McNally noted after Tuesday’s town meeting.
“I think this will serve Howland for a long, long time,” he added later.
A committee has been working on a permanent solution to the town’s fire station for the past two years, including whether to expand the current building.
“There were a lot of public input and volunteer hours” spent on the project McNally said.
Both McNally and Lloyd felt the final vote indicated the willingness to support the fire and emergency services department, which has continued to grow in recent years.
Lloyd said that the aim is to start construction later this year.
The building’s design will also allow for the town office space to be accessed at ground level, using the contour of the land already in place for the transfer station/recycling center. At an earlier public meeting, Lloyd said that the building would have a daylight basement concept, allowing for ground level access for both the fire station and town office and eliminating the need for an elevator.
The new building will be located roughly where the former recycling center/transfer station was located, part of the town’s effort to redevelop the area.