News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, April 18, 2019
Stonington to build salt/sand shed

Proposed salt/sand shed

A drawing depicts the 60-by-93-foot building the town of Stonington plans to construct for use as a salt/sand shed.

Photo courtesy of Town of Stonington

by Rich Hewitt

After years of pressure from the state, town officials Monday voted to construct a building for the storage of sand and salt for the winter.

Selectmen opted to purchase a manufactured building from Rubb Building Systems whose crews will erect the building which measures 60-by-93 feet and will hold about 2000 cubic yards of salt and sand. The project will cost $303,149, a price that includes the ground preparation work, but the town will be responsible for building a loading ramp after the building is set up and the cost of running electricity to the new storage facility.

The new building will feature a roof made of PVC-coated polyester fabric. Although, according to Town Manager Kathleen Billings, similar buildings have been in use in Maine for at least 15 years, selectmen spent a fair amount of time discussing the roof and other features of the planned building.

The four selectmen present all voted for the building purchase, but John Robbins made his vote contingent on getting information from towns that have been using similar buildings for some time.

“I don’t want to spend three or four hundred thousand dollars on a building and find out three years later that it’s falling apart,” Robbins said.

The selectmen had considered two proposals for the salt/sand shed. Although the other option was less expensive, they preferred some of the features offered by the Rubb building. Among them were the hot-dip galvanized frame and the fact that it is a four-sided building with a large roll-up door at the front as opposed to the other option which was three-sided with an open front.

The project will also include measures to ensure that the stored salt will not leach into the soil and potentially the groundwater around the site. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has pressured Stonington and other towns throughout the state to construct salt/sand sheds to prevent that kind of contamination, which, in some areas, has affected groundwater and individual wells.

Billings said construction will not begin until the fall, but said that the town needed to act now to get on the company’s schedule or else they might have to wait until next year. Construction will probably begin by late September and should take about three weeks to complete, she said.

The town had set aside $400,000 for the project which originally was proposed as an all-steel building. When the only bid on that project came in at $708,000 last fall, selectmen quickly began looking for an alternative.

Much of Monday’s meeting was spent discussing how best to prepare for the departure of Town Clerk Lucy Bradshaw who will leave next month to take another position. Billings said that it might not be easy to fill the town clerk post before Bradshaw leaves. If that happens, she said, the rest of the town office crew will need to be trained to handle all of the various operations. It may be necessary to close the town office for a few days over the next few weeks in order to provide the necessary training. Selectmen stressed that they did not want the staff to get swamped especially with summer coming on. Selectman Evelyn Duncan said if there was a need, she could help out in the office temporarily.

Discussion on Monday also highlighted some of the difficulties surrounding the legalization of recreational marijuana use. Selectman Travis Fifield wondered whether the new law would impact how the town viewed marijuana use by employees. He said there were some local residents interested in applying for an opening in the town’s public works department, but were hesitant to apply because of town policies toward marijuana use.

“It’s a deterrent for some people who might be good for the job,” Fifield said.

Billings stressed that the town participates in a federal program that requires it to do random drug tests, noting that federal laws still consider marijuana illegal. She added that regulations for the CDL license, which is required for the posted job, are more stringent and that anyone driving a town truck that got into an accident would also be subject to a drug test. That could be a problem for a recreational user, she said, because marijuana remains in the system for as long as 30 days. That driver and the town could be liable in that kind of situation, she said.