BOW — Since 2006, the town has been trying to address the growing needs of the fire, rescue and police services.
Officials have explored the option of building a new safety complex or renovating the existing facilities. Either way, the older fire and police stations must be brought up to building and safety codes by September 2016.
In March, voters will be asked to approve $6,796,000 to build a new safety facility on town-owned land, or spend money renovating the fire and police stations, and, possibly, the community center.
The choice will be presented in three warrant articles on the March ballot. The Board of Selectmen and the budget committee recommend passage of Warrant Article 3 – $6,796,000 to build and equip a public safety building for the fire, ambulance and rescue, police and dispatch services. The article seeks $6,766,000 in bonds and $30,000 to be raised through taxes. The building would be ready for occupancy in spring 2016.
Warrant Article 5 seeks $4,640,000 to renovate the fire station and the community center, with $4,610,000 in bonds and $30,000 to be raised through taxes.
Warrant Article 6 would cost $1,724,000 to renovate the existing police station, with $1,694,000 in bonds and $30,000 to be raised through taxes. Neither the Board of Selectmen nor the budget committee are supporting Warrant Articles 5 or 6.
If approved, Warrant Article 3 would have a tax impact of 65 cents per $1,000 assessed property valuation in the first year, or a $195 increase for a $300,000 home. The tax impacts of Warrant Articles 5 and 6 have not been calculated, said Town Manager David Stack.
Each article must pass by a two-thirds vote. At the 2012 town meeting, voters approved funding the design of a new public safety building but, in 2013 they defeated a bond for $7.7 million to build a new safety complex by 48 votes. This year’s proposal has been trimmed by about $1 million by cutting about 5,000 square feet of space.
If Warrant Article 5 fails, another article asks voters to allocate $50,000 to study options for the continued use of the existing community center. If the town chooses to continue using the building, renovations would need be done to bring it up to building and electrical codes, fulfilling the state fire marshal’s order for compliance by Sept. 15, 2016.
If approved, a new fire and police facility would be built at the corner of Knox and Logging Hill roads on 17 acres of town-owned land on which the gazebo now stands. The gazebo and park would be moved to the fire station’s current location.
The building that now houses the fire station and community center at 2 Knox Road was built in 1954. The building’s major issues are crumbling asbestos walls, a consistently damp basement with standing water, vintage electrical wiring, no private area to meet with patients, pedestrian and vehicle traffic dangers, inadequate storage and office space, interior and exterior building decay, and the lack of equipment decontamination areas. The garage overhead clearance is limited for fire engines. In addition, the town spends about $12,000 per year to heat the fire station.
The police station at 12 Robinson Road also contains the town’s Department of Public Works, and must also be brought up to building, fire and safety codes, and American Disability Act accessibility compliance. The facility was built in the 1980s as a public works building, Stack said.
“It’s a great DPW building, but that’s what it was designed for and not a police station. There are no holding cells in there now or a sally port to bring in suspects to ensure the safety of police personnel and the public,” he said.
“We’re trying to give voters some options. The new building would be built to all code standards,” he said. “If renovations to these buildings are done, we’re expecting to use them for many years.”