New Gloucester garage contract signed; petition filed to reconsider vote

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NEW GLOUCESTER — Selectmen voted 3-2 Monday night to authorize Town Manager Carrie Castonguay to sign the contract to build a public works garage.

Meanwhile, a petition signed by 290 residents was filed with town officials this week asking for reconsideration of last week’s vote approving the $4.6 million project. The vote was 169-139.

Chairman Linda Chase, Vice Chairman Steven Libby and Lenora Conger voted in favor of the contract; Joseph Davis and Stephen Hathorne opposed.

The vote followed nearly an hour of public comments against awarding the contract with Ganneston Construction Corp. of Augusta. The company paid $800 for 150 ‘vote yes’ signs that were erected around town by two town employees.

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Castonguay said she dealt with the employees as a personnel matter.

“There is a passion out there on this issue,” resident Pat O’Brien said. “The petition for reconsideration relies on facts and events which had not previously been fully confirmed and presented to voters in New Gloucester, specifically: the misuse of town committee authority to solicit and accept donations from the Public Works Facility bidder; and the use of other town resources to unduly influence the outcome of the voting process.”

Resident Peter Bragdon asked about the difference between bids by Ganneston and the second highest bidder. He said trust and transparency issues surround the project with Ganneston.

Ganneston was selected by the board to design and build a town garage and salt shed on a 25-acre lot shared with the fire and rescue department at 611 Lewiston Road.

A committee of staff and residents were tasked with working on the project to bring the cost down to a minimum of $4 million, which was not feasible, Libby said.

The contract will be reviewed by the town attorney, Castonguay said.

Resident Frank Staton said the project cost of $4.6 million, but with 3 percent interest for 25 years it would total $6.4 million.

“I feel we have had a flawed town meeting with red flags around everything we’ve done,” said Selectman Stephen Hathorne, who opposed the project from the beginning. “With the pending petition, we should not sign it,” he said.

After the vote, Libby said, “It was how we handled ourselves (at the town meeting), full of hate and discontent. My 78-year-old mother got sworn against. This got way out of hand, this is not the town I grew up in.”

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