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Plymouth selectmen move forward with safety building proposals

September 21, 2011
PLYMOUTH—With only the faintest blush of color beginning to appear on the fall foliage, Town Meeting season may seem like a long way away, but the Plymouth Select Board is preparing to move forward as aggressively as possible with proposals for new Police and Fire Department facilities in time for the voters' consideration at the March Annual Meeting.

At the last regular Plymouth Select Board meeting, board member Ray Gosney gave an update on progress to date, and emphasized that the board fully expects to build constructively on all the very important "foundational" work that has already been done over the past few years by so many dedicated members of the community.

He also indicated that the board was working diligently to keep community members up to date on developments with the very important Public Safety Building proposals, and welcomed input from the public as the process continues to move forward.

Two previous proposals for Public Safety facilities in Plymouth have narrowly failed to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to pass a bond article at the last two consecutive Annual Town Meetings. Meanwhile, Plymouth Police and Fire Department personnel have struggled to maintain the two aging and inadequate structures that currently house operations.

This year, Plymouth will spend approximately $50,000 each on the existing Police Department Building on Route 3, North Main Street, and the existing Highland Street Fire and Rescue facility, in order to maintain basic safety requirements and adequate working conditions.

With that in mind, the Plymouth Board has spent the last several months evaluating the best way to proceed with putting together a plan which can meet voters' expectations at the next Town Meeting.

According to the statement released by the board, and published in the Record Enterprise, the Select Board, after reviewing proposals from a number of other local firms, has made the decision to re-engage David Goudreau Architects once again this year to help with shaping a new proposal for Town Meeting.

"We concluded that their level of experience and expertise in the field of municipal construction projects was outstanding. In addition, they have been with the town on this project for two years, and will not be charging any additional fee to bring a proposal to Town Meeting," says board member Mike Conklin.

This past week, the board also announced the selection of Bonnet, Page and Stone to serve as construction managers on the project, after interviews with several other qualified firms. Bonnet, Page and Stone has extensive familiarity with the Plymouth Public Safety Building projects, having also worked with the Town during the last few years, and they will continue to offer pre-construction services to the Town at no cost in the lead up to Town Meeting.

Plymouth Select Board Chair Valerie Scarborough said that the next step in the process is to revisit the site selection decision, reviewing the vast amount of work that was done by the Public Safety Building Committee last year in evaluating as many as 35 potential sites in Town, and seeking additional input from the public on sites that may have become available since that analysis was concluded last year.

The board, last week, also received correspondence from a group of community members offering to "help build a unified vision" for a solution to the life safety building "stalemate."

At the last board meeting, Plymouth resident Mary Crowley spoke for the group, which has been meeting recently to discuss their thoughts and concerns about the failure of the police and fire department facility proposals in the past two years.

She urged the board to consider the questions and suggestions put forth in their joint letter to the board. "Speaking from a pro-police, pro-fire perspective," she asked, "how can we get this thing done in this community?"

Scarborough read the letter into the record, and indicated that the board would take this and any other input under consideration as they continue deliberations.

The letter, signed by a dozen Plymouth residents, asks the board to actively pursue further cost reduction strategies, and to clearly articulate the programmatic needs the buildings are designed to meet.

"How is service going to be enhanced by the new facilities?" asked Crowley.

The residents also suggest that an "in-town" location be considered for the new Plymouth Police Department, "to bring the physical presence of law enforcement closer to the village area where the majority of tensions between PSU off-campus housing and family residential neighborhoods intersect."

With that in mind, the Select Board also heard from Plymouth resident and neighborhood advocate Doug McLane, who suggested that the approximately one acre, flat, commercially zoned Plymouth Professional Place on Highland Street was one potential site for a new Police Department that might be available for sale, and would be sensible to consider.

"The problem with the present police department is that it is too far out of town," said McLane. "This particular location is out beyond the hospital and the institutional zone, but commercially zoned in a residential area, close enough that Plymouth residents would still feel it is in-town."

Scarborough said that details of negotiations about potential sites would take place in non-public sessions, but she indicated that the board will read, digest and consider everything that members of the public bring to their attention with respect to potential locations for the public safety facilities.

In other business, the board received a petition with as many as 30 signatures from Plymouth residents of Emerson, Merrill and High Streets asking for the Do Not Enter signs to be removed from the intersection of of High and Langdon Streets. The signs had been put up in response to requests of residents of High Street who were concerned about the impact a perceived increased traffic on the residential portion of High Street since completion of the traffic circle on Main Street. High Street resident Charles Baker said that he was one of several parents of young children on High Street that had noticed the traffic increase as people used the street as a way to bypass congestion in downtown Plymouth. Barker said that he was concerned for the safety of over 20 neighborhood children ranging in age from between two years old and 15 years old.

But petitioners said that the one-way street placed an undue burden on residents of nearby streets and potentially posed a safety hazard to children living on Merrill, Emerson and other neighborhood streets. The issues was referred to the Highway Safety Committee for further review.

Scarborough also took time out to commend the recent performance of Plymouth Firefighters Thomas Beaumont and Kevin Pierce. In a statement from the board, she said, "On Saturday, Sept. 3, Firefighters Beaumont and Pierce were assigned to an ambulance detail for the Covered Bridge Half Marathon on Smith Bridge Road. With many runners on the road, they learned over the radio of a high speed police chase heading in their direction. Thinking and acting immediately, they moved the ambulance across the road to protect the runners, then got out of the vehicle. The car being chased swerved, and came to a stop on the grass by the road. Police arrested the driver. The Select Board commends Firefighters Beaumont and Pierce for their swift response, which saved dozens of runner from injury and even death."

Varney Smith
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