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FPC stalls police station proposal

December 09, 2009
The Gilford Facility Planning Committee will place the police station addition and town hall renovation proposal on hold until further discussion in January, with no plans to move forward until 2011.

FPC Chair James Mull said that the FPC met last Tuesday for the first time in months to address the new police department extension and town hall update proposal presented by Town Administrator Scott Dunn, with the help of an architect.

The police station has been in need of extra storage and space for years, but proposals have continuously been voted down by taxpayers. A survey sent out by the FPC earlier this year showed that most voters were in favor of the idea but were also concerned with the economy. FPC members listened to the feedback and voted to hold off on plans.

The previous plan would cost about $1.58 million dollars, while Dunn's revised plan would fall around $1-million dollars and work to improve the amount of space in the facility. Now that the SAU office will move to the vacant library, the office in the town hall could be used as well.

"We are looking at utilizing more town hall space," said Mull. "Dunn came up with a possible plan to utilize the town hall space for the police station. He is trying to make the footprint smaller in the extension of the building and renovation."

Mull said the FPC will still be looking at the newer plans, but felt that either way, this would not be the right time to put more pressure on taxpayers.

"We felt that we have a very good plan, but we felt that the economic conditions haven't improved any. We felt it was in the best interest of the project to keep working on it more," said Mull.

He said that although voters were well aware of the "critical need," and that the majority of them supported the proposal, most voters expressed their concern over taxes in a weaker economy.

"We just felt it was the wrong time to go to the taxpayers. The committee respects this since we are all taxpayers. We will look for other means of funding," said Mull.

The FPC asked for $1.2 million for last year's plan, and is looking to reduce this number with the present plan.

The FPC plans to meet on Jan. 18 to further discuss Dunn's plan, yet they have already voted in agreement to postpone any work or warrant articles until 2011, said Mull who wants to wait until the budget is thoroughly viewed.

For now, Mull said the FPC is working together to find a plan with less of an impact on taxpayers considering "economic problems and unfunded mandates" such as health insurance which came in this year at a $100,000 increase.

"We are going to put things on hold until January and look at Dunn's proposal to see what we can do to bring a number in that the town is receptive towards," said Mull, who does not have a target number yet since extra funds are currently not in place.

The FPC also plans to renegotiate a price with their existing contractor. Mull made it clear that that the building plans are not put to bed, but that the committee is simply waiting on further factors until they move forward again.

Dunn said that because the SAU office space will soon be available, he has changed things around in his plan as an attempt to save money and to "shrink" the additional construction needed. He is in the process of working with an architect that fit the town's lowest bid at $1 million, his goal number and one that could possibly be reduced further.

"I threw the plan out to FPC. They said based on the economy and timing, that they were not ready to make a recommendation for the March 2010 meeting," said Dunn. "The sense I have is that a lot was invested in previous plans they felt met their long-term needs."

The FPC may also wish to use the vacant SAU office space for municipal purposes other than the police station, which would then require additional construction to create more space, said Dunn.

Both proposals will be considered at the FPC's next meeting on Jan. 18. Mull said now that his group is back together, it is time to answer unanswered questions and become more "goal-oriented."

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