Police station proposal falls short at Town Meeting
Voters will have another chance to decide April 21
|Assistant moderators Ken Randall, Pat Clark and Center Sanders remove ballots cast by Tilton voters on a new $2.7 million police station last Saturday morning in order to tally the results. The measure failed to meet the necessary two-thirds majority by one vote but will be reconsidered in a special meeting on April 21. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)|
March 16, 2011TILTON — After a year of work by the Life Safety Building Committee, a proposal to construct a new $2.7 million police station by adding onto a town-owned building at 61 Business Park Drive fell just one vote shy of passing at Saturday's Town Meeting in Tilton.
Committee chairman Owen Wellington explained to voters in attendance the importance of moving forward with the proposal and thanked present and former members of the LSBA who assisted in the process.
Wellington told the crowd of just over 150 voters that the current police station is in dire need of replacement.
"We originally thought we'd built the Taj Mahal (the current police station), then Exit 20 blossomed, and eight years later the building failed inspection," he said.
Wellington listed deficiencies of the building police are now housed in, including non-compliance with ADA regulations, insufficient storage for files they must maintain for years, legalities over privacy if a juvenile has been detained, and other situations that crop up with both male and female officers on the force.
Plans by architect Gary Goudreau, he said, would alleviate those problems and address the future of the Tilton Police Department.
Budget Committee Chair Toni Belair spoke on behalf of the committee to say they were well aware of the need for the station, but felt a $150 tax increase on a $200,000 piece of property was more than some taxpayers could bear in the current economy.
"We know it's needed, but now is not the time," she said.
Countless others stood up, both for and against the proposal.
Pat Clark felt the station was too isolated, and preferred a more centrally located site for a police station, but others, including a dispatcher for the Tilton PD who has worked in other towns, said many police departments were not on the "main drag."
"Believe me, if someone wants to find (the police), they will," she said.
Included in the proposal was $650,000 to bring water to the site and also make it available for future businesses in the business park. Wellington and selectmen stressed that by virtue of building a police station and bringing in water lines to future abutters, the town would eventually see revenue and benefit from the two projects.
"Others coming into the park will pay their own costs for hooking in, and will become taxpayers, too, bringing revenue to the town," said select board Chair Patricia Consentino.
Belair said she was concerned no timeline was given for the project to be completed, and problems could also arise with installing water lines.
Guy Nickerson represented his father, Casey, who owns the business park. Nickerson has agreed to pay all engineering and half of the construction for installing the water lines to the business park off Route 132, and his son said there would be no issue on their part in completing the construction as soon as possible.
"We're honored to partner with the town for this project and increase tax revenues. The timeline starts today, and any issues will be resolved," Nickerson said.
He pointed out that to do nothing and continue to pay for the empty building at Business Park Drive would cost the taxpayers $66 a year on a $200,000 property, previously used as a point of reference. To complete the project for a new police station would cost an additional $88 a year for the same property evaluation.
Consentino and Goudreau further assured voters construction could be done by Fall, as the project would be mostly interior work, where weather would not be an issue.
After an hour of open balloting, plans to use the building and property on Business Park Drive failed to meet the two-thirds majority necessary for a bonded article to pass, but supporters did not take "no" for an answer. Through the skills of new Town Moderator Charles Mitchell, technicalities of Roberts Rules of Order, state law and other complications that were worked out, supporters obtained a reconsideration vote, brought forward by Lynn Fox of the Budget Committee.
Article 4, the stop gap measure placed on the warrant to construct the water lines should plans for the police project fail, was also set aside for the special meeting, as its relevancy was tied to the previous article. Selectmen had placed Article 4 on the warrant so the town would still have an opportunity to increase the value of 61 Business Park Drive for eventual resale if necessary.
A special meeting to reconsider Articles 3 and 4 is tentatively scheduled to be held on Thursday, April 21 at 6 p.m. in the Winnisquam High School cafeteria. Voters are asked to watch local newspapers and the town Web site for any further details on the final vote for the proposed police station.