Tough questions mark second police station hearing
January 26, 2011CENTER HARBOR — Town officials took another round of tough questions in the second hearing for the proposed police station.
Residents gathered on Thursday night for a second time to hear and ask questions about the proposed police station. The Board of Selectmen and members of the Building Committee, including Police Chief Mark Chase, were at the meeting as well as architect Gary Godreau and Construction manager Keith McBey of Bonnette, Page, and Stone.
In December the Board of Selectmen optioned to purchase the McCann property on Route 25 for a proposed police station. This will take the place of the original plan to build the station on the Morrill Park property in recognition of the protests surrounding that proposal.
Board Chair Richard Drenkhahn said this option was found during litigation surrounding the Morrill Park property and the board felt the McCann property would be the better option. The matter was brought to the Building Committee, which approved of the decision.
The proposed station will be 3,700 square feet with space to accommodate the public, staff, and prisoners inside. Plans for the station include a lobby, booking area, sallyport, evidence storage, chief's office, squad room, and other features. Around 500 square feet of space has been moved from the second floor to the first floor, leaving 300 square feet of attic space for storage.
Construction costs for the station are estimated at $996,000. Factoring in the $200,000 warrant article for the land purchase, the total for the project will be under $1.3 million. McBey said that number is likely to drop after the bidding process.
"We're going to get some good responses and people are hungry," McBey said.
Officials faced extensive questions and concerns from residents on the cost and scope of the project.
Following questions, officials said the station would be built to accommodate its current staff and there would be no staffing additions. The town currently has three full-time officers and five part-time officers.
Officials said also said the policing needs of the town have to consider not only the nearly 1,200 full time residents but also any visitors and traffic the town receives, especially during the summer.
"The facility needs to have the resources to deal with a certain influx of people," Godreau said.
Resident Barry Borella said Center Harbor does not see the same volume of influx as Hampton and most visitors to Center Harbor tend to pass through and not stay all day.
Building Committee member Bob Chance said the issue has more to do with the town's crime rate than the town's population.
"Mark's got a lot of work to do and he's got a smaller department," Chance said.
Some residents expressed concern about the loss of that piece of real estate from the town tax rolls. Selectman Charley Hanson said the property contributes $3,000 a year in taxes. Additionally it has gone down in value and does not have much of a view, making it more likely to be a starter home. If a family purchased the house, one child in the school system costs around $19,000 in taxes, making for a loss of $16,000. Borella said the property is prime land for a new house, such as a more expensive house built by someone who is unlikely to have children.
Chase said the station will allow him to do many things at once, including meet with people in multiple locations with privacy.
A few residents also questioned the town's use of an MRI report issued in 2002, stating the report did not recommend building a new structure but utilizing the current space. Selectmen said the MRI report was considered along with several other sources, including the work by the Building Committee. Former Selectman Bob Beem said he remembered the compiling of the MRI report and recalled it was a report about administration and not space needs.
"We put all of that into factoring how much space do they need to do their daily functions," Chance said.
Chance said the intention was to create a station that met the needs of the department and was built properly for the long term.
"(We) didn't want to do something now and have to pay more down the road," Chance said.
Selectman Randy Mattson said she takes offense to statements she has heard that the selectmen want to leisurely spend money, saying the selectmen are no different from any other residents.
"We don't want our taxes to go up any more than you do," Mattson said. "We try to keep in mind nobody wants their taxes to go up."
Pam Markley expressed concern that as Meredith's station is utilized by Center Harbor, Center Harbor's station will be in demand for use by other towns as well.
"Do we need to go down that same path as other towns?" Markley said.
Borella said none of the building's opponents have said the department does not need something better, but designs should be scaled back.
Resident Beverly Peck said the station was needed and putting it off any longer will make the project more expensive.
"This is an opportunity I can see to come together as a community and help our police department in Center Harbor," Peck said. "We need this now, the opportunity is here."
A bond hearing for the proposed station is scheduled for Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.