In the end, police station proposal gains unanimous BudCom support

GILFORD — In what some are calling a historical vote, the Budget Committee unanimously gave its support to a $1.213-million bond request for the renovation and expansion of the Police Department Wednesday night.

In addition, Town Administrator Scott Dunn told the committee that there is a good possibility that $150,000 could be offset by a federal Homeland Security grant, in which case the selectmen would reduce the warrant article by that amount.

"It's never going to get any cheaper," said Budget Committee Chair Phyllis Corrigan, speaking in support of the project. "If you going to do a job, do it right."

Corrigan's remarks were directed at member Kevin Leandro who supports the idea of the renovation but initially balked at the price.

Leandro said he's been on a tour, agrees that the Police Department facility at Town Hall is too small, is unsafe and in part unsanitary, but said he wanted to see a "piecemeal" approach to renovation.

He said he wants something to be done but didn't want to spend $1.213 million.

Corrigan went around the table and asked every member to voice their opinion before a vote on the motion to pass was taken. While most members had some questions for Lt. Kris Kelley, they also supported the project as presented.

At one point, member David Horvath, who along with Leandro is considered part of the more fiscally conservative wing of the committee, made a motion to reduce the article by $60,000, however the motion failed by a vote of 8 to 4.

Once the amendment failed, Leandro said he had listened to the opinions of the other members of the board, considered the presentation and information provided by Kelley, and had decided he would support the project as presented. After his motion to reduce the amount failed, Horvath also said he, too, would support it as presented.

The project would take the facility from 4,800-square-feet to 10,500-square-feet. Key elements include a reworking of the dispatch area to address some sanitation issues, the expansion of the evidence and records storage areas, and an additional holding cell. The building will also reuse space to make it more suitable for police work. An example is moving the interview rooms to more private areas of the station and reworking the bail commissioners' room for safety.

With the expansion of the evidence storage areas, the three storage containers in the rear of the parking lot will be removed. Right now, the town is paying $225 per month to rent them.

The main entrance to the Police Department will be moved out of the lobby and into the new building. Kelley said this allows for more privacy for people who need police services.

As it stands now, people who come to the station, other than those who are under arrest, must enter through the main lobby and Kelley said this poses safety and privacy issues for them as well as the rest of the people, including employees, who have business in Town Hall.

A safe room will be built in the existing lobby. Kelley said this allows someone to immediately get to a safe place without involving dispatchers who are often alone in the building on evening and overnights shifts. The safe room provides security for someone in immediate danger until a uniformed officer can return to the station.

There will be an Emergency Operations Center that will double as a training room and a community room. The EOC will be able to be completely secured and is included in the part of the project that could be offset by federal funds. There is also an upgrade to the security system and an emergency generator.

The proposed renovation differs in the one proposed in 2009 by removing the geothermal heating system and reconfiguring the way the building works internally for the police. The 2009 proposal was for $1.5 million and earned 59 percent of the voters' support.

Because this article involves a long-term debt obligaton, three-fifths or 60 percent of the voters must vote in favor of it.