Public receptive to police station proposals


January 19, 2011
TILTON — Presentations by the Life Safety Building Committee in Tilton received a much warmer reception at a public hearing last week than they saw a year ago when Tilton-Northfield Fire District voters scrapped their plans for a Life Safety Building but asked the committee to continue to search for a new location for the Tilton Police Department.

Committee Chair Owen Wellington revealed plans for two separate locations, one at 61 Business Park Drive, where the town already owns a building and land, and the other down the street from the current police station on two lots currently occupied by Maher Welding, known as the Maher-Rogers parcel, located at 142 E. Main Street.

"We looked at 31 properties from West Main and Winter Streets east to Dodge Hill. We used criteria obtained from last year and narrowed down the selection to (these) two," said Wellington.

In their presentation of the two properties and the designs drawn up by Gary Goudreau and Associates Architectural Firm, Wellington said they wanted to compare "apples to apples" and show the comparable pros and cons on each level for the two sites.

Printouts for each location showed sitework at Business Park Drive would be budgeted for $125,000 while the Maher-Rogers site would be an estimated $230,000. Demolition of existing buildings on the Main Street site were given an additional $25,000 allowance, while a water line needed at Business Park Drive could potentially cost $275,000, under a recent 50/50 agreement reached with Clark Nickerson, who owns several adjoining lots in the business park. Additionally renovations to the building there would cost approximately $1,317,500 while the committee allotted $2,304,000 for a comparable building on the Maher-Rogers location.

Bottom line figures brought both sites fairly close in cost, with the Maher-Rogers site estimated at $3,723,000 and the Business Park Drive location figured at $3,188,802. However, the town has been paying for the Business Park Drive property, so expenses over what the town is currently indebted to would lower costs for that site's reconstruction to $2,318,802 on the town warrant.

Plans for a Main Street police department would call for a modified two-story structure, built into a sloping hillside. While floor plans show more square footage to that building. Goudreau explained it was actually close to plans for Business Park Drive in usable space.

"When you have two floors, stairwells and elevators take up space so there really isn't a lot of difference square-footage wise in what the department would have in available work space," he said.

Business Park Drive's floor plans call for use of 53 percent of the existing structure, with room to either expand or to lease the remaining 47 percent. To allow for future tenants and provide for their safety, Goudreau included a barrier wall between the sally port for the police department and a bay into the vacant portion of the building.

Each of the floor plans called for a lobby, booking area, holding cells, training rooms, evidence storage, locker rooms, administrative offices and ammunition storage rooms.

Wellington said estimates for a sprinkler system, a street light and an additional access road to Route 3 from Business Park Drive at approximately $116,300 were included in the plans drawn up. Should the town opt for the Main Street site, the land would cost $490,000 and a new traffic light at an estimated $35,000 would be necessary to allow police to leave in an emergency, both of which were included in the projected cost for that location as well.

Many who spoke at the hearing were in favor of using the Business Park Drive location. Dennis Gaudet from AutoServ of Tilton said there were enough traffic lights along the Route 3 corridor and an additional light to allow for police access, even if only as needed, would be a hindrance in traffic flow. James Walker read a prepared statement in which he urged support of Business Park Drive and encouraged the town to consider the future by adding a second floor within the existing structure to create more space and save on heating costs.

"We already own the building and are committed to paying for it Spend a little more money up front and save forever," he said.

Others questioned the value of Business Park Drive should the town opt to sell it and go with the Maher-Rogers property. Wellington said adding a water line would increase the value of the property, but would still most likely fall shy of the $1.5 million the town purchased it for in 2008. The last offer the town had received was for only $900,000, he said. The property has since been taken off the market, pending the outcome of Town Meeting.

Opposing the Business Park location was Patrick Clark of the Tilton-Northfield Fire Commission. Clark felt the site was far off the beaten path and would not be visible to those from out of town who might need police services. He said he preferred a site "on the main drag."

"Location, location, location. I don't want to have my police station out in the woods," said Clark.

Clark told the committee he felt their numbers for reconstruction of the Business Park Drive building were "soft" and said the facility was much too large but, given the space available, the police would continue to expand until they utilize the entire building.

Wellington acknowledged Clark's point but said when the police department started out some years ago needing a "mini-van" for new space, the town bought a "bus" (61 Business Park Drive), thinking others would "ride along."

"We didn't get the people to ride in it that we thought we would (as a life safety building) but who knows who might ride with us later? Either way you still have to pay for the bus," he said.

Residents of Tilton with questions and concerns are asked to contact committee members via the town web site or by leaving a message at the town offices. Feedback in the form of letters or emails is also welcomed.

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