Board Moves Forward with new Public Safety Complex

August 29, 2014
 
by S. Aaron Shamshoyan

Concern over two aging public safety buildings in town prompted selectmen to look for a replacement option, and that will be to combine the two.

Selectman James Keller presented a study conducted over the last year where a small committee sought different plans to replace the police and central fire stations, and their solution was a public safety complex.

Keller said the committee was charged with the idea by Chairman Patrick Hargreaves, to look at the viability of combining the two buildings.

Keller said the new facility would eliminate the current central station property, and allow the town to stop using the old north station for storage as well.

He said both buildings were nearing 50 years old and the north station was over 100.

Keller said the current central station had insufficient parking, poor storage, and was not compliant with life safety and fire codes among other problems.

The police station was eroding, he said, noting HVAC, plumbing, and life safety improvements were needed.

In total, capital improvements could cost over $1 million for the two buildings.

The proposed complex would be on the current location of the police station, reducing costs by using a property the town currently owns.

He said a shared building would also reduce dispatch costs and allow common areas to be shared.

“We’ve done some pretty significant site reviews,” Keller said about the location, noting they were working to keep the facility in the central district.

Keller said new laws regarding wetlands would allow nearly an acre to be filled in to construct the facility, making the Veterans Memorial property viable.

“This facility needed to be located somewhere within the towns central district,” he said, adding he researched over 20 available and soon-to-be available properties in the district but found they wouldn’t work for the project.

The new building would be about 45,000 square feet and feature six to seven double bays for the fire department and two for police prisoner transports.

“This is really the primary and only really logical location,” he told the board.

So far work on the project has been volunteer with representatives of three local companies working with Keller and Selectman Everett McBride to find a location.

Keller said next steps would be to generate a proposal for voters and get a plan on the ballot in March.  Doing so would cost about $65,000 he said, adding he planned to use information from past proposals to reduce the cost.

If successful, the building would be finished in 18 to 24 months, he said.

The right side of the building would be to the right of the current police department, and would be the new police location.  The left side would then become the new central fire station.

“We would plan on constructing the police side of the organization first,” Keller said, noting once the department moved the current building would be demolished.

Once the fire department moved to the new facility, the current property would likely go up for sale to offset the cost.

Deputy Police Chief Shawn Patten said the department favored the proposal.  “We’re on board 100 percent,” he said.  “It’s something that’s been needed for a long, long time.”

Fire Chief Kevin Breen agreed, saying the central station is outdated and in need of improvements.

“It was essentially functionality obsolete ten years after it was built,” he said.

McBride said the committee looked at a location on the current grounds of Rockingham Park but found the property cost prohibitive.

“I think there’s going to be much more efficient response times, he said about moving the fire station to Veterans Memorial Parkway.

Selectman Stephen Campbell raised concerns about the speed of the project, saying it should be delayed a year allowing time for preliminary work to go out to bid.  “I think we’re rushing,” he said.

Campbell added the cost to repair the current buildings would be less than a new facility.

“For $65,000, I think we can get this going,” Selectman Michael Lyons told the board, adding the main project would go to bid of approved by voters.

The board voted 4-1 to appropriate funds to continue the project with Campbell in opposition.  Proposals for voters are anticipated for early 2015.