Oxford selectmen meet Thursday to discuss plans for a new town office building. From left are Sharon Jackson, Vice Chairwoman Samantha Hewey, Chairman Scott Hunter and Town Manager Adam Garland. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

OXFORD — Selectmen agreed Thursday evening to solicit new bids for constructing a town office building, the recommendation made by an ad hoc committee.

Town Manager Adam Garland suggested that rather than stipulate design and building bids in a new request for proposals, selectmen should request proposals for design only. He said a smaller scale request for proposals would likely get more bids and create a more reasonable starting point.

Selectmen agreed and scheduled a workshop for 5 p.m. Tuesday to determine the best way to proceed, with an eye toward having a permanent building plan and an immediate contingency plan for residents to vote on at the annual Town Meeting in June.

Bids submitted earlier were rejected because they did not meet specifications.

Last month, voters narrowly rejected a proposal to lease office space at Oxford Plaza on Route 26.

Leasing was one of four solutions proposed by the ad hoc facilities committee after three years of research. Others were renovating and repairing the town office building on Pleasant Street, building near the Public Safety Building on Route 26, or adding to the Public Safety Building.

The committee’s recommendation was for new construction.

However, with the economic downturn and loss of casino revenue, the higher cost of building materials and services, and continuing degradation of the Pleasant Street building threatening employee safety, selectmen last month proposed leasing offices for the next five years to buy time for the economy and public health emergency to be resolved.

In other matters, the first two applications from marijuana businesses — one for medical retail and one for cultivation — were unanimously approved by the board. High Octane and Smoke Signal are the first to submit applications under Oxford’s new ordinance. Both need to be approved by the state before they can proceed.

Recreation Department Director Patty Hesse requested to raise some rates on leasing the Station House Community Center for private functions. She said there is much more work involved due to health restrictions, requiring that she sanitize all areas inside the building and all toys and other objects. Expenses for cleaning and safety supplies have increased as well.

Lois Pike, one of the founders of the town Recreation Department, said some residents will not be able to afford the higher cost.

Hesse said she will maintain flexibility based on need. She also noted that she occasionally gets requests from residents of neighboring towns that call around to see what facilities are the cheapest, using relatives’ Oxford addresses to reserve the building because the cost is higher in other towns.

In other business, Garland presented the board with bids for legal services from four law firms, Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry, Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, Bernstein Shur, and Preti Flaherty, all of Portland.

Bernstein Shur has represented Oxford for several years.

Garland said he had worked with Jenson Baird at two other municipalities and found them to be excellent.

Selectman Sharon Jackson seconded Garland’s endorsement, adding that she had had positive experiences with two of the other firms.

Selectmen unanimously approved Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry as the town’s new representative.

Also, selectmen approved setting up a reserve fund to pay for Oxford’s annual cable expenses from the franchise fees collected from Spectrum. The cost is about $10,200 and the fees average around $45,000 year-to-year.


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