The Nadeau Development Corp. Garage. Bethel Citizen photo by Samuel Wheeler

REGION — After nearly two hours of discussion, SAD 44 School Board members Monday unanimously voted to table discussion on submitting a proposed bus garage and facility project to a June referendum.

Directors decided to table discussion shortly after a motion to send the proposal to a June referendum failed 7-4. Director Sheryl Morgan abstained from the vote.

The project plan would be to buy and renovate the Nadeau Development Corp. Garage, located on Route 26 in South Woodstock (next to the Mollyockett Motel).

Jim Reuter from SRL Architects gave a presentation to the board on the Nadeau Development.

The available space for garage use would be 7,400 square feet, comparable to the existing 7,200 square-foot SAD 44 garage in Bethel.

The Nadeau option would preserve a current woodshop tenant on the site, earning SAD 44 $30,000 a year in income, according to Superintendent Dave Murphy. The building also has a second floor and more than 9 acres of land. The estimated purchase price is $1.2 million, with another estimated $500,000 for improvements. Among the bigger-ticket improvements Reuter proposed are paving, a bus lift, a sprinkler system, an exhaust extraction system and a tire storage shed.

Reuter’s most recent cost estimate for purchase/improvements was a little more than $1.4 million.

The building is comprised of two adjacent garages, the older of which was constructed in 1960, and the newer edition, which was built in the 90s. Reuter mentioned that he did not perform a structural analysis or hazardous material inspection.

The Nadeau Development was not the only option board members discussed. Going back to their February meeting, Reuter had presented building a smaller garage at Telstar that would be smaller than the original proposed garage, which was defeated by district voters in November. The new garage would have the same square footage as the current garage, but has an estimated cost of $1.8 million, rather than the $2.8 million garage that was defeated. It would also not involve taking down a nearby maintenance building, which was part of the original plan.

Despite discussion on both, the Nadeau option was the one that Facilities Committee unanimously recommended submitting to a June referendum.

Murphy said the main reason they are deciding not to recommending building new is that the voters made it clear they did not want to spend that type of money.

“The Facilities Committee thought that even if it was in the $2 million range, that it would be a challenge,” Murphy said.

Board discussion

Director Marcel Polak (Woodstock) said he thought a bus lift and sprinkler system should be included in the budget, citing that garage staff should not have to work on their backs. Although having a bus lift was listed as a proposed improvement, it was not included in Reuter’s most recent budget at Monday’s meeting.

“It’s a lot of money to spend without having the basic amenities,” Polak said.

Director Jamie Hastings said that having a sprinkler system and bus lift were extremely important to her, but noted that they are not required by code.

Director Dan Whitney (Bethel) said he thinks the lift would be a “convenience,” but that not many garages statewide have them.

Another concern among some directors was the distance from Nadeau’s to Telstar.

“The only time the buses would go down there is when they need to be serviced,” Murphy said.

Murphy also said that the buses would often just be kept at the homes of the drivers.

Whitney wondered if the age of the Nadeau building (specifically the older section) would be an issue, similar to how the Chadbourne facility (considered as an option last year) was.

Murphy said the Nadeau garage would need “a lot less work as far as changes go.”

Both Reuter and Buildings and Grounds Director Ron Deegan agreed.

“This building is much more finished off and structurally sound,” Deegan said. “It has more advantages than the Chadbourne building.” The Chadbourne building was another option discussed last fall.

The roof and much of the exterior of the Chadbourne building had to be renovated, according to Deegan.

“We would be giving the district an asset by purchasing this property. There’s over 9 acres of land and it’s another property the district would own,” Hastings said.

“I like the idea of having the building and buses on site,” Director Martha McLean (Greenwood) said. McLean said that she would be inclined to favor going with the new garage over the one in South Woodstock.

“The proposal is just the bare bones,” Hastings said. “Anything that gets added on is going to increase the $1.8 million. By the time we ask Reuter to reassess all this, we’ll most likely be right back at the $2 million mark, which is not what the voters want.”

“Time is of the essence. I hate the idea of having to go through another winter with that garage,” Polak said.  “I hope we can get this to the voters in June.”

“I think we have to have more discussion on both of these options before making a decision,” Director John Walker (Bethel) said.

Whitney and Director Erin Cooley (Greenwood) agreed that more discussion needs to happen.

With the proposal tabled, the board will now have only a short period of time left of possibly sending it to a June referendum. Murphy said a Special Board meeting could be scheduled sometime between now and April 9 to make a last attempt to get it onto the June referendum. Murphy noted that it’s a tight time frame and that if nothing happens it would have to be delayed until November.

Murphy said that if any area residents want to suggest other options for a garage to contact his office at 207-824-2185.

Once Monday’s discussion on the proposal concluded, board members unanimously voted to table the last six items on the agenda due to time (it was almost 10 p.m.).

Other news

Murphy provided the board with a brief update regarding the Coronavirus. He said Dean of Students John Eliot’s scheduled trip to China in April has been postponed for the time being, but that Dean of Students John Eliot, and four Telstar students were planning to telecommunicate with a school in China earlier this week.

Murphy said the Department of Education informed him that decisions regarding school closures/activities will be made at the local level, if the virus continues to worsen.

As of Tuesday, Maine had no confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“We have reviewed our pandemic plan and we feel it is still right on target,” Murphy said.




Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.