EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 23, 2012

Paying for a new station? Selectmen want two options

New station could face voters in 2013

By Dustin Luca dluca@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — HAMPSTEAD — A fifth attempt to pass a project to replace the current police station may hit the ballot next year, but it remains unclear how the project would be paid for.

Since the town missed the 60 percent majority needed to pass a $1.6 million station replacement project by 36 votes in March,

nothing has changed about the plans. The building is still the same size

and costs the same amount of money, barring increases in construction costs due to inflation, according to Police Station Building Committee Chairman Stephen Londrigan.

The committee appeared before the Board of Selectmen yesterday with two options for paying for the station: borrow the money and pay it back over time, or raise and save the money over an unknown numbers of years and pay for the building in one shot.

If the town borrows money, the station would be built sooner, but a 60 percent majority would need to say yes to the plan, Londrigan said.

With the other option, the town could establish a capital reserve fund and ask voters to raise money every year until the needed $1.6 million was collected. Only a 50 percent majority would need to support that plan, according to Londrigan.

Going with the latter option would leave the average homeowner in town paying around $415 if the entire project was paid for in one year. If paying over 11 years, the average household would chip in about $50 each year, according to Londrigan.

The station would be built once $1.6 million is set aside.

“You can kind of now pick how much you want to set aside per year versus when you want the station,” Londrigan said.

In the last decade, the town supported spending articles needing a 60 percent vote only 45 percent of the time. Articles needing 50 percent support or greater, however, were passed 70 percent of the time, Londrigan said.

The selectmen voted 2-1 to present both options to voters, something that Londrigan said the committee didn’t support initially.

Selectman Richard Hartung opposed giving voters both options. He preferred a third approach: put some money in a capital reserve, and then borrow money to pay for the rest.

“How many people save for a new car and buy the car with cash? Not a whole lot of people,” he said. “But a lot of people sock some money away so they get 45 percent, 30 percent of that car (paid for in advance) so they’re not on a 10-year plan with a car.”

After the selectmen voted, Londrigan said he wasn’t sure when the options would appear before voters. While a 2013 vote is likely, how the building committee handles the board’s recommendation will be based on the legal language behind the options.

“We have to see how it can be worded,” Londrigan said. “This will come down to, ‘how do you position the vote?’”