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Sanbornton residents get first look at municipal building designs

February 20, 2019
SANBORNTON An overflow crowd forced a public hearing concerning the design and concepts for the construction of both new and reconstructed municipal buildings in the Town of Sanbornton to be moved from the town offices to the Old Town Hall last week, where Keith McBey of Bonnette, Page and Stone, along with Evan Mullen of Port One Architects, revealed their design concepts.

Mullen said that the broad overview would be for a three-phase "domino effect" project where one department would be moved to a new location after the next phase was completed. The primary catalyst for the project he said, was to provide functional space and security needs for the police department, currently housed in a portion of the Life Safety Building.

After meeting with town employees, touring other possible locations and considering the needs of both the town, Mullen designed a police department that would be housed in the current town offices.

"The town office (in the mid 1960's) was well-built, like a concrete bunker, to originally be a fire department," he said.

Through the years, the usage has changed but he said it could now meet the needs of police.

Mullen's design calls for the addition of a 1,200 square foot Sally Port to the right of the building that would include a secure booking area. The rest of the building would be used for office space, private interview areas, storage and locker rooms. The facility would also be made ADA accessible and include temporary holding cells until arrested suspects could be released or transported to local holding facilities.

Chief Hankard pointed out several areas in which this would increase security for his department. Two holding cells, creating separate space for both adult and juvenile detainees, has been a big concern and this design would address that issue. Bathrooms, he said, are actually another huge security issue. When someone is in custody and has to use the bathroom, they currently must be escorted through the police department offices with a civilian administrative staff member, then past any other civilians or fire fighters in the shared hallway before they reach the current facilities.

Since 1997, he noted that Primex, the town's insurance company, has been concerned about the department's noncompliance with these and other security matters. Working with Mullen and McBey, he said their design would address those matters while meeting the needs of the town in the future.

The cost for that reconstruction is estimated to be approximately $842,391.

Next up was a more minor reconstruction plan for the Life Safety building that would further meet the growing needs of the Sanbornton Fire & Rescue Department. Chief Paul Dexter said the space now being utilized by the police department would provide not only added administrative office space for the department, some of which is currently being done inside a small structure housed in an equipment bay, but address safety issues as well. The reconstruction would allow for a small bunkroom for prospective fire science students, locker rooms for the staff, a radio room, and adequate plumbing that would give fire fighters and EMTs a place to decontaminate after an incident. At this time, the chief said, his crew has to be sent home, one at a time, to shower and change out of their contaminated clothing. That poses a health risk to not only them, but their families as well in a career that has already seen an elevated risk for cancer due to the exposure to carcinogens they experience while on the job.

The third phase of the "domino effect," three building project would be the construction of new town offices in the rear of the Old Town Hall on Meeting House Hill. McBey and Mullen said careful consideration was put into that final phase, considering the historic value of the building and the elevation change from the building to the town-owned fields behind it.

"This was a little bit of a challenging site for us when it came to finding a way to connect to this historic building," Mullen said.

The plan they came up with, however, calls for putting a solid foundation beneath the town hall, which would help preserve the aging structure by giving it more stability. From there, a low-profile, 4,000 square foot addition would be built behind it, with a glass-fronted, solar-friendly design that would not only allow for access between the two structures but provide an elevator and stairway to the new town hall basement where vital records could be stored and preserved. The elevator, he explained, would make it ADA accessible and provide ease in moving large files and equipment to and from that storage area.

The town offices would be accessible by a drive that wraps around the town hall with two entries available. The lower level, built partially into the hillside, would house administrative and welfare offices, while the upper level would provide space for the more public needs such as Town Clerk/Tax Collector, the Recreation Department, a planning room, break room and meeting space.

Cost for that project would be $2,715,725.

McBey said his company would guarantee a maximum price of $4,998,120 for all three phases of the project and return any unspent funds directly back to the town.

There were many questions from the more than 50 people on hand for the hearing, one being concern for the integrity of the Old Town Hall. Speaking neither for nor against the proposal, one resident pointed out that by placing a solid foundation beneath the historic, it might be better preserved. Mullen added that the low-profile concept would also keep it visually appealing in the town while providing more functionality to the community.

"The key is not to take away from the three buildings (on Meeting House Hill). It will be subtle and we'll be conscious of the architectural style and history of this building," he said, adding later, "This is all not intended to be luxurious, but functional."

While several agreed that the police department certainly needed more secure quarters by questioned the overall price of the three-building project, there were numerous overwhelming concerns about the tax impact on the town.

Town Administrator Katie Ambrose stated that the total debt service today is lower than in Fiscal Year 2015 and 2016 with the bond for the "Y Project" now complete. The Transition bond payment of $100,000 will be fulfilled in 2019, and $134,000 in annual payments for the highway building will also be done away with in 2022. Remaining payments on the ARA project along Lake Winnisquam will complete by FY 2024.

The tax impact for this latest municipal project, Ambrose said, will be 23-cents per thousand for the initial interest payment, followed by a peak payment of 84-cents per thousand in FY 2021. From there the rate will decrease by 2-cents per thousand each year during the scope of the bond.

McBey said both he and Mullen's company researched all feasible options available and felt they were providing a good solution to the town's safety, security and space needs.

Their designs, financial data on the project, as well as other useful information from the Board of Selectmen are all available on the Sanbornton Town Web site. Final discussions and voting on the matter will take place at the annual Town Meeting in March.

Garnet Hill
Martin Lord Osman
Penny Pitou
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