The City Council’s Finance Committee voted unanimously on Thursday, August 2 to appropriate $2.11M of property sale proceeds from the $3.3M sale of 0 Hancock Street. In August 2017, the City Council approved a $3.3 million sale of 48,000 square feet of the City-owned Thames Street property along the Eastern Waterfront - a site that is soon to be home to the world headquarters of WEX Inc. The remaining funds from the sale have yet to be appropriated.
The Finance Committee voted unanimously to recommend appropriation of $2.11M of the $3.3M of sale proceeds in the following manner:
$1,000,000 to support the rehabilitation of the Allen Avenue Fire Station
$1,000,000 to support the Housing Trust Fund
$110,000 to support the creation of a Climate Action Plan, a joint venture with South Portland.
“It’s not often that we would hold a first and second read on the same day, however, time is of the essence to get the Allen Avenue Fire Station back up and running for our residents,” said Councilor Nick Mavodones, Chair of the Finance Committee. “We hope the public understands the urgency, and that anyone interested join us for the public hearing at 6:00 PM on August 13.”
The City Council will take action on the recommended appropriation at its August 13th meeting. The August 13 meeting consists of one meeting at 4 PM and a second meeting at 6 PM. The first and second read for this item will occur on Monday, August 13. Typically, the City does not hold first and second readings on the same day. However, due to the immediate repairs required to reopen the Allen Avenue Fire Station, the public hearing and vote will be scheduled for the 6 PM meeting. Details on each project are included below.
Allen Avenue Fire Station Rehabilitation
In October 2017 a fire broke out in the kitchen area of the Allen Avenue fire station, and caused moderate damage to the kitchen and smoke damage throughout the one-story building, which houses the Ladder 4 and Medcu 4 fire companies. The station is currently closed due to the damage. Construction to renovate the Allen Avenue fire station is slated to begin this fall. City officials have been working over the last several months on the new design as it will be the model for any future fire station renovations, and is expected to be utilized for the next 60 years. The new fire station will include a sprinkler system, fire alarm system and will address ADA-compliance issues.
The Allen Avenue ladder truck was relocated to the fire station on Forest Avenue and the ambulance crew was moved to the fire station on Ocean Avenue. The current cost estimate to repair the station is approximately $1.3M. The cost is more extensive than simple damage repairs as the building is very old and needs to be brought up to current code in many areas. Although the insurance company will pay for a percentage of the repairs, the appropriation request is for $1M of the $1.3M to cover the deductible and City share of expenses. Any excess insurance proceeds received will be deposited back into funds balance.
Housing Trust Funds
The City has a unique opportunity to use a total of approximately $2 million in Housing Trust and federal HOME funds to support three housing proposals that will create 202 units of affordable rental housing. One hundred and twenty-five of those units will be affordable to households at or below 50% of the area median income. The Housing Trust Fund is a valuable resource for projects that are seeking other funding by still have a financing gap, as these proposals do. Without the appropriation of these funds at this time, the proposed projects would have difficulty competing for and securing other funding sources that are vital to the projects success.
Climate Action Plan
The City Council has taken a number of steps recently to emphasize its commitment to climate action. In May 2017, the Council adopted a resolution committing the City to use 100% renewable energy by 2040. In June 2017, the Council passed a resolution to join the Mayors Climate Action Agenda (Climate Mayors) that commits the City to take actions to achieve the goals established by the 2016 Paris Climate Accords. The Sustainability and Transportation Committee, led by Councilor Thibodeau, has made developing a plan to achieve these goals a priority for 2018. City staff recently made a presentation to the committee about joining with the City of South Portland to develop complementary climate action plans for each city. This would allow the cities to share costs associated with consulting and technical analysis. The resulting plans will describe actions each city should take to mitigate the effects of climate change as well as strategies to adapt to impacts such as sea level rise. The climate action plans will cover all sectors of the community -- residential, commercial, and industrial -- as well as municipal operations. Portland’s share of the cost will be $110,000.