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Police station expansion plans get the go-ahead


June 16, 2010
There is a finally a light at the end of the tunnel for the Facility Planning Committee, which has been diligently working toward making the delayed police station expansion and town hall renovations proposal a reality for 2011 elections.

The Board of Selectmen approved the current plans last Wednesday night, with a $71,600 price tag. Town Administrator Scott Dunn said the FPC is about $10,000 short in its budget and would have to find a way to cough up the extra money.

The expansion and renovation plans were last brought forward in the 2009 March elections, and although the proposal won a majority vote by the public, it was shot down without a 60 percent voting range. After an extensive survey, it appeared that most taxpayers would approve of the plans if they were more financially feasible, considering the economy.

Ever since this vote, Dunn and the FPC have been working to keep the cost of the entire project under $1 million, which they have been able to do with a few cost effective changes to the plans.

"There are two issues we have been looking at since: the SAU could potentially shrink the size with its access, yet the committee felt the town would be better served if they were not cramming the Police Department downstairs, and stuck with the first plan," said Dunn. "We also nicked the geo-thermal heating system and went out to bid again."

Dunn said the FPC has weighed gas prices and talked about insulating the town hall and replacing the heating system that was installed in the '80s, considered to be outdated by current standards.

"We want to re-bid (for an engineer) and look for conventional heating, which is more cost-effective, yet the lowest number is still more than we have in the FPC account," said Dunn.

He said it would be possible to propose the plan as is and fill the gap in the budget hole, or turn the project over to a new architect, although this would most likely eliminate the chances of submitting the proposal for the 2011 elections. Another option would be to eliminate the town hall renovations, although this could cause more severe building problems in later years.

"We want to do this in 2011 and take advantage of lower costs," said Dunn.

Selectman John O'Brien asked Dunn if the FPC has considered relocating the Police Station, either to a new or existing building.

Dunn said they have done related studies, but it looks as though the 40 x 60 building addition would prove to be the "best bang for the buck," and what the department realistically needs today.

Selectman Gus Benavides asked where the extra $10,000 would come from. Dunn said an official source had not yet been discussed, although he has spoken with the finance director.

O'Brien asked about the discussion of using the undesignated fund balance. Dunn said it would take extra steps to use the surplus for design funds, but he was hoping to ultimately fund a majority of the project through the surplus.

The deadline for the final bid determination must be made by Dec. 31, and the FPC hopes to get the bid out in September, start actual bidding in October and have a number by November.

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