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Bow selectmen propose deferred-payment plan for safety complex

Union Leader Correspondent

February 28. 2014 8:03PM

BOW — The Board of Selectmen is proposing a financing plan so the town could begin construction of the new safety building and defer a tax impact if the $6,796,000 article is approved by voters.

The article, which goes before voters on March 11, would allow the town to begin building a 25,000-square-foot public safety facility to house the fire, emergency management and police departments, and dispatch.

The need for a new building, said Town Manager David Stack, is to meet a safety and building codes deadline required by the state fire marshal.

The financing plan was designed by Stack and Finance Director Bob Blanchette, and was presented for consult to Bob Levan, former finance director, and the New Hampshire Municipal Bond Bank. The plan was approved by selectmen at their Feb. 25 meeting.

“We had heard from a number of people that they were in favor of the project but wished that we could wait until the 1996 bond for the new high school was paid off. This plan allows us to do that very thing,” said Stack. “With the plan, the town will be able to begin construction of the facility in May 2015, if approved, and we will be able to defer the first debt repayment until fiscal year 2017-18.”

If the article is approved, the town would apply for a bond anticipation note, or BAN. The town would incur a 2 percent interest, or $294,489, over 26 months. The interest and the first payment would cost $464,389, of which $169,900 would be the first payment on the fire safety complex bond.

“Taxpayers will not see any increase in taxes and we will be able to occupy the new building prior to the Sept. 15, 2016 deadline set by the state fire marshal,” said Stack. “The bond anticipation note is used to get projects started then you pay off the principal with interest. We’ll try to get a lower BAN depending on cash flow.”

The BAN would allow the town to put the project out to bid in December, with construction beginning in spring 2015.

In 2016-17, the town would pay off $46,265 of its remaining high school sewer project, and $828,143 of the Bow High School project. If voters approve the fire safety building warrant, property owners would see a $1.84 increase per $1,000 assessed property value in 2017-18. The $1.84 increase would include the 2015 BAN, the 2017 bond and the debt service for the Hammond land purchase, the 2008 and 2011 water and sewer projects, and the 2006 Memorial School project.

“If we didn’t do the bond anticipation note and we had overlapping debt, it would be an extra 65 cents tax increase per $1,000 (assessed property value) or $180 for a $300,000 home,” said Stack.

Bryan Gould, a member of the Concerned Taxpayers of Bow, said Friday he wasn’t aware of the selectmen’s decision to defer the bond. However, he said it may not make a difference to his group’s objections to the $6,796,000 safety building proposal.

“It appears that the amount of the proposed bond would remain unchanged as would the scope and size of the safety complex. The decision, therefore, does nothing to address our fundamental concern that the town is being asked to spend two to three times more than what similarly sized towns have approved or spent for their new safety complexes in the past few years. The amount of the proposed bond remains grossly excessive, and kicking the tax-increase can down the road a few years doesn’t change that. The selectmen need to sharpen their pencils, not just put off the tax impacts of excessive spending,” Gould said.

The Concerned Taxpayers of Bow presented a petitioned warrant article for the ballot as a money-saving alternative to the town’s proposed $6,796,000 facility on town-owned land.

The group’s petition asks voters to approve $225,000 to repair the electrical system in the fire station and community center, and provide proper ventilation in the center’s kitchen, a move that Gould said would satisfy the town’s needs in the long term. Members of the Concerned Taxpayers of Bow said other towns have built public safety centers for $3 million to $5 million less than Bow’s proposal.

The town will be presenting voters a choice of three articles — $6,796,000 to build and equip a public safety building; $4,640,000 to renovate the fire station and the community center; and $1,724,000 to renovate the existing police station. Another warrant seeks $200,000 to install a geothermal heating and cooling system in the public safety building. If the safety building proposal is approved, the bonds to repair the two properties will be deemed void.

Each town-proposed article must pass by a two-thirds vote. The petition warrant article needs a majority vote to pass.

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