EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 20, 2014

Sandown eyes former funeral home for police station

Voters will make final decision

By Alex Lippa

---- — SANDOWN — After voters failed to approve a new police station last year, selectmen are trying a more creative approach this year.

The town has reached an agreement to buy the former Peabody Funeral Home on Main Street. The sale will only go through if taxpayers agree to spend $125,783 to renovate the building.

“This is a better location,” police Chief Joseph Gordon said. “It also will save us money.”

The cost to purchase and renovate the building is $871,036, $745,163 would come from a capital reserve fund.

Voters will have the option of building a new facility, also on Main Street. That option would cost $1,030,960, with taxpayers raising $285,969. If both options pass, the town would choose the funeral home renovation.

The renovation plan would mean a 25-cent raise in the tax rate. The other option would mean a 52-cent tax rate hike.

Gordon said the former funeral home only came into play a few weeks ago.

“We had looked at it once as a potential location in 2007,” Gordon said. “But a member of the community alerted us that it was on the market again, so we became interested.”

The funeral home closed in 2007. Since then, the building has served as a seven-unit apartment building.

On Thursday, the town reached a purchase-and-sale agreement with owner Patricia Brown on the building.

Brown could not be reached for comment Friday.

The agreement is contingent on permission from the voters.

“Otherwise, it goes back on the market,” Selectmen’s Chairman Thomas Tombarello said. “It all hinges on the voters.”

Tombarello said this option should be more attractive to voters after a large tax rate increase this year.

“With the schools, our taxes went through the roof last year,” he said. “Fortunately, we were able to find a way to get this on the warrant at the last minute,”

Tombarello said there have been several non-public meetings and site walkthroughs over the last few weeks. Gordon announced the plan publicly at last week’s selectmen’s meeting.

In addition to being cheaper, Gordon said renovating the building also makes sense for the police department.

“It’s a fatter piece of land,” he said. “It has better curb appeal, as it’s more visible from the road. It will bring some of the other town’s functions closer to the police station as well.”

The building is two floors, but only one of the floors would likely be used for the police station.

“We’re thinking of applying for a grant and using the second floor as an emergency management center,” Tombarello said. “Or we could move planning and zoning into the second floor up there.”

Tombarello said he believes this year is the best time to get this article approved.

“Otherwise, we might as well just take 30,000 dollar bills and burn it in front of the Town Hall,” he said. “That’s how much more it would cost with material and labor increases.”

Voters will get their chance to express their thoughts on the article at the deliberative session on Feb. 1. The election will be held on March 11.