Police & Fire

Milo looks to get started on $6.3M public safety building

MILO — In January the town of Milo was awarded $6,375,000 in federal money to construct a new public safety building to house the fire, police, and public works departments. The project is part of nearly $27 million for eight projects across Piscataquis County in an omnibus funding bill, and $36 million for public safety facilities and equipment in 27 Maine communities.

“It’s putting all of these departments under one roof in one modern, efficient building with lots of space around it for all the equipment,” Town Manager Robert Canney said during a public hearing before a select board meeting on March 7. 

He said the new building would be located less than a mile  up Park Street from the 100-year-old town hall where the fire and police departments are currently located. “Right now we are looking at the two lots the town owns,” the town manager said, near the business park and across the road from the Milo Water District office.

He said public works staff would have improved working conditions in a new facility, and the garage would be taken out of a residential neighborhood.

“There’s no expectation right now that we will have to put in any money or borrow any money,” Canney said. He said the town of Howland recently built a structure for its library, ambulance, fire department, and town office for a little less than $3.5 million, and Milo’s building would be a similar size.

USDA is the managing agency for the project. Soon the town will select an engineering firm to conduct site work to ensure the two intended lots will be suitable for building. If not, then another location will be found.

“It’s not either or, this building will continue to be used until the taxpayers decide they don’t want it,” Select Chairperson Tony Hamlin said about the town hall. “But should that happen in three years this becomes available for community activities, rec department, etc.”

Canney said informational discussions have mentioned the current fire station being used for department storage and a museum.

“We are not even going to break ground on this until (2024 at the earliest),” he said. “The town office is staying here.”

After seeing an article on the project last month, Plymouth Engineering of Newport reached out to Milo with an interest in the engineering work. The company did Howland’s building (which Milo officials were set to visit on March 9), Newport’s public safety building, and more. Canney said Plymouth Engineering would likely be invited to the April select meeting to give a presentation.

The public safety building could be done via a “design, bid, build” process in which the engineering firm handles oversight of all these tasks. Canney said USDA prefers this, as opposed to the town hiring and overseeing the contractor.

“When we’re talking about designing this building, we need to think 50 years in the future,” Canney said about discussions he has had with department heads.

A more immediate project are improvements to the municipal parking lot with much of the funding coming from a downtown revitalization grant. Canney said Milo has an approximate combined $125,000 between a grant and town contribution.

Last month the select board opted to use $31,250 in ARPA funds to cover its 25 percent share of the $125,000. The ARPA account stands at $78,811 before the $31,250 is appropriated. Monies will arrive in July so a specific scope of work can be developed before then.

“We applied, really through (the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council), for a downtown revitalization grant,” he said. “We got it, we estimated $125,000 was what the project was going to look like. We have got to tear up the pavement and fix the underlying surfaces and we have catch basins back there where we need to make sure the water is draining. So part of this project will be to fix all that and have a contractor come in and repave it. We will actually mark off some lines so it looks like a parking lot.”  

The town manager said there is a road leading to an adjacent apartment building and this will be clearly lined so no one will park in the travelway.

Public works crews would tear up old pavement and haul in gravel to offset costs. “Try to square it off a bit so it looks like a parking lot and not a big blob of asphalt,” Canney said, mentioning soft spots in the middle lead to asphalt getting torn up during plowing.

The town would also conduct earth work to get runoff to go into the catch basins rather than flow down the side and a retaining wall would be installed. Landscaping would further improve the site.

“That’s a good area down there, the town uses it quite a bit when there’s the Black Fly Festival and things going on,” Canney said. “It’s a nice area but it’s in really rough shape”

Hamlin thanked Canney for his efforts to help secure funding for both projects. He said each are “huge things that will pay dividends for the community.”

Canney said the town recently received two AEDS from the Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency as part of an effort to distribute the life-saving devices across the region. He said Milo has an older model at the town hall, which would become a backup behind a new AED and another from EMA would likely be placed at Harris field. 

He said the AEDS cost several thousand dollars apiece.

The town manager also said he is working on a winter parking ban as Milo has no such ordinance in place.

Canney shared pictures with the select board of vehicles parked halfway or fully in the road. “We technically can’t even tow a vehicle out of the way and what happens is our public works guys need to go back the next day and clean up little spots here and there where they had to swing around some vehicles” he said.

An ordinance would be voted on the select board for the 2023-24 season. The document would lay out timelines when such parking was prohibited, allow for exceptions, and potential fines.

Canney said he mailed letters to vehicle owners parked in the road. He said several called him and mentioned they are renters and had difficulty parking in driveways with landlords not removing an adequate amount of snow and ice.

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