LEWISTON — A committee charged with designing the new Sabattus Street fire substation will pursue its current plan for a three-bay station on North Temple Street after receiving the go-ahead from city officials despite a higher-than-expected price tag.

At a City Council workshop Tuesday, those serving on the substation committee, including Fire Chief Brian Stockdale, presented the preliminary design to councilors, including cost estimates that average $4.2 million.

If the final design comes in at that price, the city will likely be left to find an additional $1.5 million over what it has already bonded for the project. The Sabattus Street station is the first of three Lewiston substations to be replaced in the coming years.

Stockdale said the committee has been whittling down building designs and layouts.

Prior budgets have funded $3.5 million toward the project, but architectural, engineering and brokerage services have come in at about $812,000 so far. Stockdale said those “soft costs” were assumed to be included in the overall expense, but were not, meaning the committee had to adjust some elements, decreasing the size of rooms and garage bays.

The committee also found ways that city staff could lend a hand in the process, which further cut down estimates.

Overall, he said, $176,000 was dropped from the estimated costs.

Councilor Michael Marcotte said the initial level of funding approved by the council was on the lower-end of estimates, adding: “I was not expecting it to come in at $3.3 million. It’s refreshing that it’s in the neighborhood of $4.3 (million).”

Stockdale said the committee chose the current design using considerations such as neighborhood fit, safety, efficiency and most cost-effective.

City Administrator Ed Barrett said with council approval, the committee will pursue its current design. Next, a more in-depth estimate with line-by-line costs will be created by the architects.

Denis Theriault, who serves on the substation committee, said the city will save about $200,000 for each station moving forward due to Lewiston using a mostly “cookie-cutter” design for the remaining two substations.

In August, the City Council approved entering into an option agreement to buy a 10-acre property at 55 North Temple St. for the new Sabattus Street substation.

When the substation committee was first formed in late 2018, it was marred by a fire department union grievance over Mayor Shane Bouchard’s appointments to the committee. The firefighters appointed by Bouchard — Samantha Mayo, Nate Mailet and Chris Fournier, and Tim Trainor and David Beaule, who are lieutenants in the department — have not taken part in the committee meetings.

CITY COUNCIL APPROVES CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PLAN

The City Council on Tuesday approved next year’s Capital Improvement Plan that includes $39 million in proposed projects.

While the plan was unanimously supported by the council, representatives from the Lewiston School Committee said they were concerned with comments made by the Finance Committee regarding a few of its project proposals, including a planned wing expansion at Lewiston High School.

A Finance Committee memo regarding the CIP stated that the school department’s proposed expansion that would include a performing arts wing, “should be postponed until after the citywide vote and the vote should be timed during an election which would garner high voter turnout.”

However, members of the School Committee took issue with the recommendation Tuesday, stating the vote in November 2019 has already been scheduled.

School Committee member Luke Jensen encouraged the council to keep the school project on the CIP.

“We put a lot of thought into this,” he said, adding that 2019 is still an important election year in Lewiston.

School Committee member Francis Gagnon said school officials “were a little surprised by this today.”

He said that after “50 years of waiting” for a dedicated place for arts at the high school, the project should be supported.

City administration issued a reminder Tuesday that the CIP is a working document, and that final funding decisions for each project are made at a later date.

The City Charter requires that a capital improvement program be prepared annually for review by the Planning Board, the Finance Committee and the City Council and be adopted by the City Council at least four months prior to the end of the current fiscal year.

The School Department’s section of the plan also calls for roughly $900,000 for a district-wide security camera upgrade.

Members of the Finance Committee, including Denis Theriault and councilor Marcotte, said the committee recommendations were based on the sheer number of projects in the pipeline compared to the city’s debt limit.

“We’re looking at a significant debt level in this city,” Marcotte said, arguing that the city has “still not recovered from breaching” its debt limit level in order to fund capital projects in previous years.

Councilor Alicia Rea, who serves as the council representative to the School Committee, criticized the Finance Committee for not meeting with school officials prior to issuing its recommendation.

Barrett said the purpose of the CIP is to get a full picture of the city’s capital needs in front of the council before the city sees the full budgetary picture.

Mayor Shane Bouchard said he is looking forward to digging into the project list this spring.

“It’s going to be fun,” he said. “We need a lot and can’t afford a lot of it.”

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