SANDOWN – While voters turned down many moneyed articles presented to them on the March 11 warrant, a significant majority of voters agreed that it was time to build a new police station.
For years town leaders have argued that the police department needs a new home, but until chief Joe Gordon devised a plan whereby the town saved for construction in annual increments, new construction was routinely turned down. In 2010 the town began to save $175,000 per year into the Police Station Capital Reserve Fund. Each year since then the measure has passed, even when the amount was increased last year to $200,000 due to inflation.
At the polls March 11, 801 voters said yes and just 287 said no to a final appropriation of $125,873 to repurpose an existing structure at 460 Main St. Though the total estimated cost for the building is $871,036, the town has already saved $745,163.
While the initial plan devised in 2009 was to break new ground on town-owned land closer to the town hall, when the former funeral home at 460 Main St. went on the market earlier this year, Gordon jumped on it, arguing that the town could repurpose the structure for less money than new construction. It was an argument that many agreed with, and both the selectmen and budget committee unanimously backed the plan.
But voters were also given the chance on the warrant to build new. An article to raise $285,806 for new construction followed the 460 Main St. article. It was turned down with 436 yes votes and 659 no votes.
As residents waited for the results to be read after the polls closed last week, there was perhaps no one there who was more concerned with the tally than Gordon. As the ballot counts were being firmed up, rumors circulated that the station had passed, but it wasn’t until the numbers were officially read by moderator Nelson Rheaume that there was a big sigh of relief from the officers in attendance.
Gordon said he was very excited that the town agreed to fund the remaining cost of the station, especially given the overwhelming support testified to by the numbers.
“The numbers are great,” said Gordon. “I’m thrilled. It’s been a long time coming.”
Other members of the department also expressed their pleasure with the vote. The department long ago outgrew their station and were making do with limited space and resources. While officers have dealt with various pitfalls of the old station, from working and changing in cramped spaces to the need to handcuff prisoners to a pole in the back room, the space also falls foul of some regulations, including rules around juvenile sight and sound separation.
Outgoing selectman chair Tom Tombarello has been a vocal proponent for the new station. Working for the Essex County sheriff’s department brings him to 50 to 60 police stations across Massachusetts, he said, and in comparison, Sandown’s station was just not serviceable.
“It’s definitely something that needed to be done (build a new station),” said Tombarello. “I’m thrilled. For both the public’s safety and the officers’ safety.”
Tombarello also pointed to the wisdom of getting the project done this year, as it will save the town money in the long run. Not only is 460 Main St. likely a one shot deal, but inflation has pushed the cost for labor and materials up each year, he explained.
The property is set to be closed upon April 15, when plans for the next step in construction can be firmed up. Gordon has noted that he’s looking to do as much as possible in the building with volunteer labor to save the town money.