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January 02. 2013 11:43PM

Backers of new Hampstead police station seek voters' OK once again

HAMPSTEAD - Supporters of a plan to build a police station refuse to give up, despite four failed attempts to get voters to approve a plan in recent years.

For the fifth time since 2007, voters in March will consider a proposal for a new 7,600-square-foot station, which would be built on five acres of town land off Veterans Way.

The building would replace the 3,500-square-foot station on Emerson Avenue. That small, outdated facility has several deficiencies, police say, including a lack of security and holding cells.

Last year, a $1.5 million proposal fell about 40 votes shy of the 60 percent majority needed to pass.

"The place is just completely inadequate to operate out of safely. We made some modifications because of violations cited by a Department of Labor inspector, but the place just is not what we can work safely or effectively out of," police Lt. John Frazier said.

Stephen Londrigan, chairman of the police station building committee, said the plan hasn't changed from the one proposed last year, but the pricetag has increased due to rising construction and material costs.

While the plan must be debated during the hearing process, the proposed cost now stands at $1,638,000.

Londrigan said the issue most voters were concerned about last year was the cost of the project, even though it was about $500,000 less than earlier proposals.

Unlike previous proposals, this year's plan would not be funded through a bond, meaning taxpayers would take a hit for only one year.

"We're just going to pay for it outright," said Selectman Sean Murphy, board chairman.

Murphy said raising $1 million increases the tax rate by $1, so the plan would cause the tax rate to jump by about $1.60 for one year.

"We decided the way to go was with the 'one and done' solution," he said.

The building committee has studied the plan and determined that the size of the proposed station is adequate. Londrigan said the "next vehicle to lower the price is how the project is paid for."

"When we looked at the feedback we received there where quite a few people who opposed the plan because they did not want to finance the project. Even though the interest rate for the bond was at historically low levels, the total interest the town would pay was nearly $300,000 over the life of the bond; a big sticking point for many. There is no finance charge for a one shot and any grants, donations or unused contingency funds offer the opportunity to reduce what is needed to be collected for the project," Londrigan said, adding that the proposal is the "lowest cost facility that can still support our police operations and the least expensive way to pay for it."

If a plan is rejected for a fifth time, Londrigan said, "I would imagine the plan would be put back on the ballot the following year. The need for a new station will not have changed, something that the majority of the town has always agreed with through the years."

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Jason Schreiber may be reached at jschreiber@newstote.com.


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