EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 5, 2013

Hampstead votes for police station for fifth time

Hampstead voters asked to approve a new police station

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — HAMPSTEAD — Four times, police Chief Joseph Beaudoin has watched voters reject a new police station.

Now, just a week before Town Meeting, he said he senses things are different.

“This year is eerily quiet,” Beaudoin said. “We aren’t hearing the things we’ve heard in previous years. We don’t know the reason, but we’re very optimistic.”

Voters will get yet another chance to approve a new police station when they go to the polls a week from today. This year, the town is pushing a “one and done” plan, asking voters to pay for the proposed $1.63 million station on Veterans Way in just one year.

“This is just a onetime tax increase,” Beaudoin said. “After this year, the taxes would go right back down to where they were.”

The current station, which was built in 1948, is about 2,500 square feet and lacks several important features, according to Beaudoin.

“There’s no holding cells here,” he said. “When we arrest someone, we handcuff them to a wall. The whole booking system is in the same room, so we have to handcuff both hands or they could just be able to access our computer.”

The proposed station would be about 7,500 feet and would include holding cells, along with new male and female locker rooms. Currently, the female locker room is combined with a unisex bathroom.

Stephen Londrigan, president of the Hampstead Police Building Committee, estimates that the median taxpayer would pay about $260.

“Last year, we got feedback from voters that there was concern over interest payments with the bond,” Londrigan said. “With this approach, there is no interest and we’ve made it as cheap as we can.”

A 10-year, $1.5 million bond option fell short of the 60 percent required approval by just 36 votes last year. This year, the article requires majority approval to pass.

“We know the majority of the people in Hampstead want this building,” Beaudoin said. “Even if we lose 3 or 4 percent from last year, it would still pass.”

At the library yesterday, resident Tom White, 62, said the duration of the payment wasn’t important to him.

“We just need to take the hit and get it over with,” White said. “The cost is only going to go up and they are in need of a new police station.”

Beaudoin hosted an open house at the station Saturday and said about 100 people showed up to take a tour.

“People were in awe that we do what we do in a building like this,” he said.

The building committee will host an information session about the proposal tomorrow at the library at 6:30 p.m.

Voters will be asked to OK a $5.36 million town budget, up just over 1 percent over the current budget.

Residents also will be asked to raise $51,000 to hire another full-time police officer and $28,500 for new extrication equipment for the fire department.

Law enforcement needs won’t be the only items on the warrant. The Sad Cafe, a nonprofit family music theater in Plaistow, is requesting $5,000 from Hampstead taxpayers.

“We are very fragile,” said Ruth Marie Kay, the executive director at the cafe. “Our only income is admissions and this past month has caused us to cancel several events because of the snow.”

Kay said they receive money from Kingston, Atkinson, Danville and Plaistow, in addition to money received from state grants. Kay said Hampstead used to fund a small amount of money to the cafe, but stopped in 2009.

Selectman Richard Hartung said he would be in favor of supporting the cafe again.

“They were on our list some years ago and, due to the poor economy, we couldn’t quite support it,” he said. “I think it’s a worthy organization that helps keep young people active and gives them something to do.”

Polls will be open next Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Hampstead Middle School.