By Bill Pearson, Piscataquis Observer: DEXTER, Maine — When the Dexter fire station was constructed in 1955, it was a sturdy, well-built structure designed to last for decades. The fire station didn't start to show signs of wear until the mid-1980s, when the roof began to develop some small leaks.
Because the town hasn't performed any significant maintenance on the roof, the leaking has worsened to the point that the flat, concrete building has now become saturated with water and the roof is on the brink of falling apart.
Fire department officials believe the roof has become a safety hazard to both the equipment and personnel within the structure. On Oct. 11, fire department officials requested — and the Town Council unanimously approved — additional funds to replace the roof's covering.
The town has $37,000 in the fire department's capital reserve account set aside for the fire station. Mike McCormick — a volunteer firefighter, certified plant engineer and owner of McCormick's Facilities Management in Dexter — believes replacing the roof's covering may cost nearly $67,000 to complete this fall.
The council made its decision after hearing McCormick's assessment of the roof's condition.
"It just can't handle any more water, to where it's on the verge of disintegrating. The concrete panels could begin to fall, which would endanger the people and equipment inside the building," McCormick said.
He will seek bids from four firms that specialize in roof repair. The overall cost may be less if there aren't any asbestos abatement problems within the roof's layers. McCormick estimated the repair costs could be reduced by $8,000 without any asbestos problems.
The council will select a contractor next month and authorize the borrowing of funds from the fire department's capital reserve account.
In other action, the council agreed to engage a real estate attorney to review a request by property owners seeking to rescind a 30-plus-year-old agreement not to develop their land located in north Dexter. The council approved the request made by Donald Richman and Jon Pittman, who purchased 400 contiguous acres in Dexter and Ripley in the early 1980s.
The Dexter property includes a parcel that was once known as "The Old Metal Dump." The town took possession of the land as a tax-acquired property and operated the dump there for several years. Richman and Pittman later purchased the land and removed all of the metals from the property. The two men had no desire to develop the property at the time. They wanted the property because it abutted the Tremblay Road.
The town's decision to place a no-development covenant within the sale's agreement wasn't due to any environmental concerns associated with the former metal dump. At the time, the council had concerns about more people using municipal services. Those concerns included the impact on the town's water and sewer systems, public works department maintaining additional roads, and how more children would impact the school system.
"The covenant between the town and owners had no language about environmental concerns," said Town Manager Linda-Jean Briggs. "The only issue was the impact of how more people living in the area would impact town services."
Richman has requested the change in the no-development provision because both he and the other owner's life situations have changed. Richman described himself as being in his mid-60s and Pitman as being over 70. The owners want to develop 250 acres and place 420 under a conservation easement.
The town will have the property tested for any metal contamination that may have seeped into the groundwater. The volatile organic compound soil test and attorney's fees will be paid for by the property owners. The council wants to review the soil test and hear from its attorney before deciding whether to remove the restriction on the north Dexter property.
"I want nothing more than to have a land-development project like this come into town," Briggs said. "But don't misconstrue my comments. We still need to research the proposal in order to avoid a potential environmental disaster in the future."
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