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Committee presents options for Tuftonboro fire and police facilities

TUFTONBORO’S Public Facilities Committee held a public forum on July 30 at the Tuftonboro Central School to present a variety of building options, the result of 16 months of consideration. Members included (l-r): Tom Young, Richard Knapp, Chairman John LaPolla, Betsy Frago, Lane Evans and Dave Eaton. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
August 06, 2009
TUFTONBORO — In March 2008, Tuftonboro's Public Facilities Committee was charged with coming up with options for selectmen to consider to solve the safety and space needs of its fire and police departments. Their 16-month effort culminated on July 30 with a presentation of options to an audience of about 50 residents at a public forum at the Tuftonboro Central School.

Calling attention to the conceptual drawings set up for viewing, committee member Tom Young outlined each of the options the committee had identified: a standalone fire station; an expansion to the existing police department (which is presently connected to the town offices); and a combined police and fire department. He said that doing nothing is "not free," for the fire department well and septic systems need attention and buildings still need to be maintained.

Tyler Phillips started the discussion by thanking the committee for addressing what he termed a "thorny, knotty problem" and their "great job considering options." He then said he'd like to hear from the Fire and Rescue Chief Adam Thompson and Police Chief Andy Shagoury, since their departments would be directly affected by any decision.

Thompson said that he does not think it would be ideal for both departments to be together and stated a preference for a standalone building, noting that having a third station, in addition to the Mirror Lake and Melvin Village stations, would cut down response times considerably. He made it clear at a later point in the discussion, though, that he is not necessarily against a combined facility and that he is amenable to "whatever it takes for savings."

Shagoury began with a list of the benefits to having a shared facility – saving on mechanicals, the phone system, security systems and one furnace for example – but said that there would need to be some segregation for confidentiality in sensitive police matters, such as sexual assault and dealing with minors.

Shagoury went on to say that in his opinion, an expansion, which would involve construction work going on while the station is in operation, would be "a nightmare to work with." He added, "There goes a large chunk of the parking lot and the town garden."

Speaking in favor of vacating the present area rather than undergoing expansion, Shagoury pointed out that at some point, when the town offices need to expand, the current space occupied by the police department would allow for that. If the police department is expanded, there would be no room for the town offices in the future.

He warned that right now the department is exempt from Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements which are coming into effect, but as soon as a change is made, the new rules will come into play for it is "against the law to approve a plan that is not ADA compliant." He said he did not think it would be a good return on the investment.

Commenting on the shared building concept, committee member Dave Eaton said that a combined use would have to rise to meet the federal standards demanded for police stations, standards which a fire station would not have to meet on its own.

Jeanne Tempest expressed the opinion that no major project will pass in today's economic climate and recommended that the town fix the problems at the fire station in the interim. She also suggested looking into the use of the library building as a police station in the event that the library is able to build a new building.

Ruth Smith offered the perspective that the vote on the proposed new library missed passage by just 20 votes at March's town meeting and said that the town needs to factor four buildings into the equation: the town offices, the library, the fire department and the police department, and added, "You can't do one without the other… it's a mistake to go forward without including the library."

Committee member Betsy Frago explained that the committee's focus was on the fire and police stations: the "whole town concept" is something for the selectmen to take into consideration.

Librarian Christie Sarles asked if the estimated costs included the cost for furnishings and site work, costs she said could add a half million or more to the price tag. The answer was no on the furnishings, but committee member Richard Knapp said that the estimates include what the committee considered to be reasonable expenses. The conceptual plans are based on site work completed on the Dearborn property. Site work has not been done on the Gould property.

Retired architect Richard Carey, whose firm designed institutional buildings, said that the life span of 10 – 15 years mentioned by the committee was not long and that large projects take into account quality, durability and operating costs. He expressed concern that a professional architect was not involved in the planning and said that if the town is going to replace a building, it should "do it right, even if it has to wait a couple years."

Mention was made of using local contractors, but Carey commented that when a bid is public, the lowest bidder wins the contract, and they call the shots.

All three selectmen were in attendance, and any one who wanted to speak was given the opportunity.

The committee will next tally the votes and summarize the comments turned in by those in attendance who chose to fill in the committee's questionnaire. The Tuftonboro Board of Selectmen will make the final decision on which course to take.

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