February 27, 2019TILTON – At last week's meeting of the Tilton Main Street Committee, Kevin LaChapelle and members of the Tilton Police Department Building Committee gave a presentation to the group on their proposal for a new police station.
He began by stating that the current building committee was the third formed since 2006, this latest convened by Tilton selectmen in 2017.
Major concerns with the current police department were explained and among them is the fact that there is no air-handling system in the department to clear the building of any toxic components brought in as evidence, such as fentanyl; the booking room is combined with the office space causing other safety concerns, and there is no juvenile holding area in the building.
Over the course of the past year and a half, LaChapelle said the committee looked at 173 potential properties in the hopes of finding one that would provide ample space for a new police station and give the town proper coverage.
"We took a look at Business Park Drive again (a site formerly proposed for a Life Safety building) and it's just not feasible. We closed the door on that chapter for good," he said.
Pat Consentino, a selectman and member of the building committee, said that while they did look seriously at the corner lot on Business Park Drive, they found it would cost close to a quarter-million dollars just to bring water to the site.
"We just couldn't take a cost like that to the town," she said.
After all their searching, what the committee did find though was a nearby piece of land, located at 27 Sanborn Rd., next to St. Joseph's Cemetery. The property currently is under a 99-year lease agreement with the Arch Diocese of Manchester and is being used as a practice field for the Winnisquam Regional School District's football program. LaChapelle said they contacted the diocese about purchasing the property and have spent the past year working with them on an agreement.
Through a slide presentation, the Main Street Committee was able to get a look at the layout of the 4.5-acre site and saw that a police station would not infringe on the athletic field.
"The property is big enough for the police department and we could leave the practice field there for now. That was important to us," said LaChapelle.
Another positive feature was the location. Sanborn Road is also known as New Hampshire Route 132, a well-travelled thoroughfare with a traffic signal at the nearby intersection with busy Rte. 3. The traffic signal is already equipped with a preemption device that allows safety officials to control the traffic lights from their vehicle when they are responding to an emergency. The other deciding factor was the presence of both a fire hydrant and a town water line.
"It really is a prime location. Economical and reliable utilities are available and the police told us a majority of the work they do is right in that area," LaChapelle said.
The property was appraised at $450,000, but through negotiations with the diocese, he said they are willing to sell the land to the Town of Tilton for $350,000.
"The relationship we have with them is priceless and they're interested in helping with the infrastructure of the town," he added.
Should the town vote to purchase the site for a future police department, the present police department building, constructed approximately 28 years ago, would be sold. That means it would be returned to the tax rolls, thereby generating more income for the town. The tax status of the Sanborn Road property would not change as it is already untaxed property.
Members of the Main Street Committee liked the idea of adding property to the tax roll and further appreciated the fact that a new station would not detract from it.
"I think it's really important to put the former property back on the tax rolls," said Dennis Gaudet. "We've been through this dance (for a new police station) many times, but this time feels right."
Voters will all have the opportunity to weigh in with their thoughts on March 16, when they consider purchasing the property at the Tilton Town Meeting.