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Route 132 site unveiled for potential life safety complex


January 27, 2010
TILTON — After months of fact-finding the Life Safety Building Committee presented to the public its recommendation to purchase three acres on the corner of Route 132 and Birch Pond Drive for the construction of a new police station for Tilton, and eventually a life safety complex that would house a fire department.

The land is located behind Walgreen's and would be sold to the town for $540,000. Warrant articles for the bonding of $540,000 to purchase the land, $3,771,600 for the police station and seeking approval to sell 61 Business Park Drive will be presented to Tilton voters in March.

Approximately 90 people from both Tilton and Northfield gathered in Tilton Town Hall for the public hearing Monday evening. Architect Gary Goudreau revealed his conceptual designs that showed the building as a police station for the first phase of construction and the later addition of a fire station, which is presumed to be for the Tilton-Northfield Fire District. Northfield's Fire Services Committee had recommended prior to this meeting the dissolution of the fire district.

Both departments were designed to have common areas for day-to-day operations as well as separate quarters for administrative staff, equipment and storage.

"This is an ideal site for many reasons," Goudreau said of the property.

Frontage on two roads would provide emergency egress from the building that would not jeopardize public access to the building. Direct access to Route 132, one-quarter of a mile from Route 3 and a half-mile from I-93, would allow for prompt response times. The sloping topography of the land also gave him flexibility in his design that could include additional vehicle bays and storage underneath the building.

Finance Manager Tim Pearson showed the tax impact for the project, based on the known 2009 tax rate. Purchase of the land with a 4-percent five-year note would raise the tax from the current rate of $7.48 to an estimated $7.72 per thousand, or a total rate of $21.26. With the possibility of stimulus funds, due to come available again this spring, land and construction of the police station would raise the tax rate slightly higher to $7.97 per thousand.

"The difference is if we do it all at the same time there's a little less cost involved," Pearson said.

Adding the fire department "down the road" would add just under $200,000 per year in annual payments. This, Pearson said, would add $120,000 to Tilton's fire district annual costs and $78,000 extra to Northfield's.

The public was invited to weigh in with their thoughts or ask questions of the committee, but few took advantage of that opportunity. Lenny Burke, a business owner in Tilton, asked if other locations had been considered. Chairman Ben LaBelle said 20 sites in total were investigated and rated with a matrix system they devised. The land they recommend came in with the highest score.

Another question was asked concerning the use of "green energy" for the buildings. Goudreau explained that the possibility of incorporating wind, solar and geothermal energy would come later in the design phase of the project. His conceptual design included energy-efficient measures that create a thermal envelope and keep heating and cooling costs to a minimum but other energy uses would be considered as time progressed and the design is finalized.

Peter Fogg of East Tilton urged the committee to investigate grants and stimulus funds for the project. LaBelle said the committee has been actively looking at grants but the land purchase would be crucial in getting them. ARRA funds would save as much as 50 percent of the costs, but land and designs need to be ready for such funding to become available.

"They want shovel-ready projects," he said.

The committee said they recommend selling 61 Business Park Drive to satisfy the town's debt for its original purchase. While once considered as a location for fire and police services, the LSBC found it to be less than ideal. Response times from that location, despite being just up the road from the proposed site, were much greater and build-out costs, previously determined to be $2.3 million, would give the two departments little to no benefit.

LaBelle said, "It was our conclusion that 61 Business Park Drive was not a viable location."

The committee agreed that safety buildings should be visible from main thoroughfares so that people visiting or passing through a town can find them when necessary. The property at 61 Business Park Drive was remote, making it less than ideal.

Gretchen Wilder of Northfield asked the committee for a cost estimate for the proposal.

"Can we have a number so we know if we want to buddy up and make it a life safety complex?" she said.

Pat Consentino, the Tilton selectmen's representative to the LSBC, said the land and police/fire complex was estimated at $7,374,819. No bids nor a final approved design have been accepted at this time; costs were based on the conceptual design as drawn up by the architect.

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