EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 12, 2012

Hampstead hopes to pay for new police station in just one year

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — HAMPSTEAD — A new police station may be funded entirely in one year if town officials get their way.

Selectmen have decided they will ask the public to pay for a new police station with one lump sum and it will likely be voted on at town meeting in March.

“This is a one and done approach,” Selectmen’s Chairman Sean Murphy said. “The thought was that if we had two articles it could split the vote. If we paid for it all at once, we take the tax hit in one year and it’s somewhat minimal in terms of raising people’s taxes.”

The project is estimated to cost $1.6 million, but the final cost won’t be known for sure until the check is written. The average taxpayer would pay between $80 and $100 in additional taxes for one year to cover the cost of the new station.

After mulling two possible options for the community to vote on, the selectmen and the Police Station Building Committee settled on one to make matters they billed as less complicated for voters.

“It was just too confusing,” said Stephen Londrigan, chairman of the Police Station Building Committee. “We needed to make a single funding vehicle and we asked the board to choose one.”

There were two options which were previously on the table. They could borrow money and pay it back over time or they could pay for it all at once.

“It’s a good option and it’s the cheapest way to go,” Londrigan said. “There aren’t any interest charges and it would contain inflation.”

Murphy said it was rare a project like this would be paid for in one year.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen something done like this that isn’t through financing,” he said. “But this isn’t a $10 million project.”

The station has been up for a vote several times. It was most recently rejected at Town Meeting in March. Voters rejected a plan which would have the town pay $1.6 million for the station through a bond. The plan fell 36 votes of the 60 percent majority approval needed. Voters also turned down a $54,000 article to pay for the engineering and ownership of the plans last year, 1,059-784.

Although the cost is ultimately the same as it was last year, the percentage of votes needed has changed. With this plan, the project only needs majority approval.

“We have always received the majority of the votes,” police Chief Joseph Beaudoin Jr. said yesterday. “The additional percentage was where we are having a hard time. We are hoping that the majority continues to come out and still see the need to vote it in. The need is there and we’ve just been putting it off. The working conditions at the station now is atrocious.”

Murphy said with no big-ticket projects on the March warrant and extensive renovations needed for Hampstead Central and Middle Schools in the future, 2013 would be the ideal time to tackle the police station.

“This is opportunity to get a police station done and not get whacked down the road,” Murphy said. “I know this is a tough economy, but building costs are only going to go up.”

Once the plan is approved to appear on the Town Meeting warrant, the next step for Londrigan is making sure it passes.

“We need to re-educate the voters on what we are voting on and why we are doing it,” he said. “We aren’t developing a whole new construction plan, we are sticking with this one.”