Police station renovation/expansion project back on Gilford radar screen

GILFORD — Town officials will be contacting a local architect to see if the most recent dollar figure for the proposed expansion of the police station at Town Hall is still viable — with a possible eye on placing it before voters in 2014.

The directive came at last night's selectmen's meeting after a discussion with Police Chief Kevin Keenan, who told them if the town wants it to go to the voters in March the board needs to act soon.

"The (existing) plan is 99 percent biddable," Keenan told selectmen last night when asked if the plan generated in 2009 by the now disbanded Facilities Planning Committee is still viable.

He said if the current plan is to heat with oil as opposed to geothermal energy, then it's "good to go."

The proposed expansion of the police department was last brought to voters in 2009 and, while a slim majority of the 1,308 people who voted supported it, it failed to garner the 60 percent needed for passage. The final vote was 661 in favor to 647 against.

Since 2009, the proposed expansion has come up as a topic but in 2010 and 2011 selectmen declined to put it on the warrant, largely because of a poor economy.

One of the biggest issues now, said Selectboard Chair Kevin Hayes, is that the budget for the project has changed so often in the past many local contractors won't want to bid on it again.

"We've burned out the contractors," Hayes said. "We only got two bids for the (current Town Hall renovation.)

Those two bids both came in high — one at $385,000 and a second at $529,000. With the project budgeted at $322,000, Selectmen asked Dunn to work with the lowest bidder to see if the project could be done for less.

As for the police station renovation, in 2009, the dollar amount that went to the voters was $1.58 million dollars, payable over the length of a 20-year bond issue. By 2011, the last year selectmen discussed it, the proposal had gone down to $1.4 million but it never went on the warrant.

At last night's meeting when selectmen discussed "getting a number" Keenan balked.

"We've been there, done that," he said, agreeing with Hayes that it's just too expensive for the individual contractors to come up with proposals only to have the budget for the project keep changing.

"We need to get one solid number," Keenan said, noting that "bouncing around with the numbers" is what killed the project the last time it was discussed.