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Salem voters will be asked to approve $23 million public safety building

SALEM — Voters will be asked to approve the construction of a new unified police and fire station next March.

The proposed 53,915-square-foot building will be on the site of the current police station on Veterans Memorial Parkway and comes with a $23,480,000 price tag.

Selectmen voted 4-1 to place an article on the March ballot asking voters to approve bonding $21,830,000 of the cost of the project. The warrant article would need to garner 60 percent of the vote in order to pass.

The town would use existing funds to pay for the balance of the project.

“I’m happy. I think this is a good thing for the people of Salem,” said Selectmen Chairman Pat Hargreaves.

The joint public safety complex would address a number of issues at the current police station and the Central Fire Station on Main Street, according to Selectman James Keller.

Keller said it would cost the town approximately $3 million to repair a number of compliance, HVAC, space and other issues at the existing buildings.

The cost of a joint safety complex would also be lower than building separate new police and fire stations, Keller said.

The proposed facility would have seven bays for fire department vehicles and equipment, compared to the four at the current station.

The police station would have a second sallyport and be more secure than the current station.Both departments would benefit from a unified emergency dispatch center, shared training areas and a training room that could also be used for community meetings after hours.

In addition to the warrant article for the new public safety facility, selectmen also approved putting forward an article that would authorize the sale of the Central Fire Station and the smaller Old North Fire Station if the bonding for the new facility passes.The sale of those properties could bring in at least $900,000, Keller said.

Selectman Stephen Campbell cast the lone votes against the two articles, saying he could not support a project that would add 46 cents to the town’s property tax rate in the first year of a 20-year bond.

If the project is approved by voters in March, Keller said construction could begin by March of 2016.

“By March, 2017, the police portion would be operational,” said Keller.

At that point, the existing police department would be demolished and work would continue on the fire station portion of the project, which Keller said could be completed by December of 2017.

“This is the most comprehensive plan we’ve had, and I think the community is ready for it,” said Selectman Michael Lyons.

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