KENSINGTON — A proposal to build a $1.2 million facility for police, emergency management and new town offices will get a $300,000 gift from a local philanthropist to ease the financial burden on taxpayers.
The gift would help offset the cost of the new building, which will be up for a vote at the polls on March 11.
Police Chief Mike Sielicki said the Lewis family of Kensington offered to make the donation if the project is approved.
"The only thing they asked is that the town hire good contractors, which the town would do anyways," he said.
Alan and Harriet Lewis are known for their charitable giving and have donated to other local projects in the past. Alan Lewis most recently purchased Exeter's historic Ioka theater at auction in 2011 in hopes of reopening it as a community-run theater.
According to the proposal, taxpayers would have to raise $770,000 for the new building through a 25-year bond. The town would also use $130,000 in surplus funds in addition to the $300,000 from the Lewises.
If approved, the building would increase the tax rate by 24 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, meaning the owner of a home valued at $300,000 would pay an additional $72 a year.
Supporters of the new building hope the donation from the Lewises makes the project more appealing to voters.
"They're donating almost a third of the building. We're lucky to have the Lewis family in town to contribute to such things," Sielicki said.
The 5,600-square-foot building would replace the building that once housed the town offices and police department.
Mold issues forced police and town office workers to vacate that building several years ago.
Police have been working out of a rented trailer in a town parking lot with no running water or restrooms. The town office staff relocated to a commercial building where the town also rents space.
The mold was first discovered in 2009, and a company was brought in to clean it up. A portion of the building where a water problem was thought to have created the mold was gutted and workers returned, but after a few months they were moved out again because they continued to experience health issues.
The building proposal is expected to be debated at the town's deliberative session on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Kensington Elementary School.
Selectman Kevin Rosencrantz urged voters to support the project.
"It's something that's necessary. Our police officers have no bathrooms," he said.
According to Sielicki, officers must use restrooms at a nearby church or the fire station. The town also rents four offsite storage trailers used by the police department.
"The conditions we are in are not acceptable. It's time to move forward and get a suitable facility for the police department to work out of," said Sielicki, who is one of the department's four full-time officers; the department also have five part-time officers.
A building committee formed last year explored different options and decided a few weeks ago that including the town offices in the building would be the most cost-effective plan.
Sielicki said building a new facility for both police and town office employees makes sense because this year the town will have to spend $56,000 in rental fees and other expenses for the police trailer and town office space.