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Sandown voters have 2 options for police station

By Jason Schreiber
Union Leader Correspondent

January 31. 2014 8:13PM

SANDOWN — Voters this year will face two options for building a new police station, but thanks to careful planning, neither plan will require the town to finance the project.

The proposal preferred by selectmen, the budget committee, and Police Chief Joseph Gordon seeks $871,036 to purchase the property at 460 Main St. and renovate the existing apartment building into a new police station. The cost of that option, proposed under Article 3 on the town warrant, would be offset by $745,163 that's been raised by taxpayers over the years and set aside in a police station building fund.

If approved at the polls on March 11, taxpayers would need to raise the remaining $125,873 to fund the entire project.

The tax impact of Article 3 would be 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation, meaning the owner of a home valued at $250,000 would see a $62.50 jump in their tax bill.

A second building option, Article 4, calls for the construction of a new $1,030,969 police station on town-owned land on Main Street across from Deer Run Road. Under that plan, the same $745,163 in the police station fund would be used and another $285,806 would need to be raised through new taxes.

The tax impact of that option would be 57 cents per $1,000 of valuation, so a resident with a $250,000 home would pay an additional $142.50 in taxes.

"I think the voters have accepted the fact that we need a new police station. They've put the money aside to do so," Gordon said.

Both options would replace the existing 1,200-square-foot police station attached to the fire department, which officials say is too small and inadequate. The plans will be among the warrant articles up for discussion at today's deliberative session, which begins at 8 a.m. at the town hall. Voters last year rejected a $945,000 plan to build a new station, but agreed to put more money into the building fund.

Gordon has spent the last several years urging voters to support a plan for new construction, but he said the property at 460 Main St. recently became available to the town and is a more desirable location.

The property, owned by Patricia Brown, is the former Peabody Funeral Home building and now houses apartments. Another benefit is that the property sits next to the town's recreation center.

"That's going to be the best alternative right now to help save taxes, and we'll end up with a police department comparable to what we've already asked from the voters," Gordon said.

Selectmen Chairman Tom Tombarello said the town has offered $417,500 to buy the property under a purchase and sales agreement.

Under the plan, Gordon said the two-story building would be gutted and renovated.

Police would use about 4,188 square feet of the 5,344 square feet available, Gordon said. The rest of the empty space on the second floor not occupied by police may be used by other town departments.

If voters decide to go with the option to build new, Gordon said it would offer similar square footage for working space.

Tombarello said he hopes voters choose one of the options this year.

"Our police station is very dangerous to our officers and we've outgrown it. If we don't do something and God forbid an officer gets hurt, we're going to get sued for a lot of money," he said.

Tombarello said he also worries about the rising cost of building materials and labor if the town holds off for another year.

"We could potentially lose money by doing neither. It would be like throwing away $35,000 to $40,000," he said.

Public Safety Elections Sandown