By more than a two‑to‑one margin, Lubec voters turned down the proposed expenditure of $965,107 for a new town garage and sand storage facility. During the special town meeting held on September 18 in the fire bay adjacent to the town office, 124 registered voters listened to arguments, mostly against the proposal, for nearly an hour before the lopsided 83‑38 paper ballot was cast. The project would have added up to $550,000 to the town's long-term debt; the proposed 15-year bond would have added an estimated $43,684 to the town's annual budget and resulted in an individual tax increase of up to 3%.
In a related matter, on September 13 the select board, following advice from the assessor's agent, set the tax mill rate for the current fiscal year at 19.5, which is unchanged from the previous fiscal year.
Selectman Michael Scrivani observed that the public works construction proposal originated from the town's comprehensive plan, which had been years in the making and was approved by voters during the 2011 annual business meeting. Scrivani, who was a member of the Lubec Comprehensive Plan Update Committee that prepared the current plan, stated that the need to replace the crumbling 56-year-old garage and open‑air salt/sand storage pile had been identified in a survey of voters as a "high priority" as part of the preparation of that plan.
Deterioration of the building can be clearly seen, and town snow removal equipment will not fit inside. Renovations of that structure would require bringing the entire facility up to current code requirements, according to town officials. "I don't know what would happen if OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] came and looked," said Town Administrator John Sutherland, expressing concerns about substantial fines.
Residents of the apartment complex adjacent to the sand pile have complained of the effects of blowing sand and salt; letters from physicians have confirmed their concerns, triggering fears of litigation. Members of the current and previous select boards have advised that the state has mandated sand piles be covered and that the now‑open Lubec pile is "grandfathered in." It is not known how long the state will allow the uncovered pile to continue.
The executive summary to the 1992 comprehensive plan was included in the 2010 update and states, "The town should plan for the construction of a sand and salt storage shed within the next 10 years." The 2010 plan includes the results of the survey referenced by Scrivani. It was conducted between December 2009 and January 2010, addressed to all registered voters, and is based on 194 responses. In that survey 44% of the respondents said that "replace/expand town garage" was either "urgent" or "needed within 10 years." In the same survey, 68% of respondents held "repair sidewalks" to be "urgent" or "needed within 10 years."
Following the 2011 adoption of the comprehensive plan, a committee was formed to consider requirements for a new public works facility and to work with engineering consultants to prepare a plan. The formation of the committee, whose meetings were open to the public, was announced by the select board on television and also in The Quoddy Tides. The group, headed by Vaughan Hill and including Scrivani, met regularly during the year following its formation and paid their own expenses to travel to other towns to study similar facilities.
The committee hosted a public information meeting on April 16, which attracted three members of the public.
On June 20, 45 voters attended a special town meeting and approved by a 24‑13 vote the site of the proposed facility and additional engineering expenditures, after a proposed change to the location failed by three votes. Members of the committee cast votes in that referendum. The third and final public information meeting was held on September 11 and attracted 25 individuals.
During the September 11 meeting, resident Ralf Multhopp asked whether soil testing had been done to the existing garage facility to determine whether contaminants were present. He again brought up this question at the September 18 meeting, stating that it had not been answered previously, and he also raised questions about the condition of other parts of the town infrastructure, including "unusable" sidewalks. In an incident reported elsewhere, this summer a visitor was taken to the emergency room after tripping on a Water Street sidewalk.
At the earlier meeting select board Chair Maureen Glidden pointed out that soil testing would typically be done by the buyer at the time of a purchase. Sutherland repeated that statement during the later meeting, adding that the town was trying to keep costs down.
When asked what the next step would be, Sutherland replied, "The problems are still there," observing that the town has already expended over $50,000 for engineering studies, building plans and bid advertising. "The public works committee is still active," Sutherland says. A meeting date will be set for some time in October, and the public will be urged to attend and participate in the planning process.