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Police station expansion funding could come from surplus


January 27, 2010
The Gilford Facility Planning Committee recently decided to delay their proposal on a police station expansion and town hall renovation for this year but plans to be back in the game by March 2011 with a new warrant article that may take funds from the town's surplus fund balance.

During the 2009 elections, a FPC warrant article pertaining to the expansion and renovation proposal was shot down by taxpayers. The committee compiled a questionnaire and residents responded, saying they favored the idea but not the timing in terms of the economy. Although the FPC won't present another article until next year, this won't stop them from weighing their options in the meantime and trying to make the final proposal as cost-effective as possible.

Various funding options in particular were taken into consideration during the FPC's meeting last Wednesday, held with Town Administrator Scott Dunn, who has helped the committee with its plans.

Dunn said he aimed to shave down the price and the amount of work done on the joint building, while still creating more space and function. However, now that the SAU office will be relocating from its space on the bottom floor of that building, there is more space to work with. He suggested that rather than paying $1.5 million over the next 20 years and putting the burden on the taxpayers, finding other means of funding may work more efficiently in the long run, and residents would be more likely to agree to the proposal.

Dunn said he stood behind potentially using the town's surplus fund balance, which currently has $5 million, to cover the project instead of asking for thousands or millions from taxpayers. Dunn said if funds get tight, they will still need some additional money, but nothing compared to $1.5 million.

"The world won't end if $5.2 million goes to $3.7 million in funds. Within two years, the fund balance will most likely go up," said Dunn.

FPC Chairman James Mull said this would alleviate some pressure from the taxpayer and avoid interest payments.

FPC member Andrew Howe agreed and said now was the time to make a financial decision such as this.

"I think this is the right kind of opportunity to use this money for," said Howe.

Other than seeking out funding alternatives and ways to keep the building costs down, Dunn said he would also be looking into HVAC designs, town hall exterior designs, energy conservation upgrades, and sprinkler systems or fire walls in the next few months.

Committee member Steve Grant said he would like to scrap a geothermal option, which would cost about $200,000, and said sticking with the HVAC system and replacing it would most likely cost less, and prove to be more convenient.

Dale "Chan" Eddy agreed with Grant's comment and said it may be their best option right now.

"I have to agree with Grant. We can gain more from insulation (which is already in place) than from geothermal," said Eddy.

The committee also discussed the use of a sprinkler system, or a fire wall, but still needed some clarification on sprinkler codes in certain size buildings. Grant said he favored putting a sprinkler system inside the town hall portion of the building, especially if the police had a system installed.

"Putting a sprinkler in will become more necessary down the road. It will help with insurance and it's a better investment," said Grant.

If needed, the sprinkler system piping which may be installed in the police station during construction could eventually be continued on to the rest of the building.

Dunn said he would consider going to contractors soon for bids, even if the committee needed another year to work out the kinks on the proposal, because now may be a good time to find an architect.

"I would be comfortable going to bidders. The numbers are good. Eighty percent of what we're going to do is already on paper. We have nothing to lose by going to contractors," said Dunn.

Howe agreed and said in "today's market," he wouldn't mind rebidding. Although Dunn did work alongside an architect for a time, the bid was never officially granted.

Mull asked selectmen representative Kevin Hayes if the selectmen would embrace their ideas in terms of funding, and suggested that Gilford Deputy Chief Kevin Keenan present a proposal to the selectmen.

"The selectmen will most likely not discuss this until after the election," said Hayes. "That is why it's important to do our homework now. We want to keep moving forward."

Dunn said he wouldn't be opposed to presenting the plan to selectmen after March elections, although he said he would like to present them a specific number. After doing additional research, Dunn plans to present his findings to the committee.

The committee may also consider utilizing a Budget Committee member as a liaison for the FPC for some additional insight while finalizing plans.

The FPC plans to meet again after elections, during the last week of March on Monday, March 22, at 5 p.m.

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