The Hinsdale Convenience store in Hinsdale, N.H., suffered severe damage after a late night fire last August. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer
The Hinsdale Convenience store in Hinsdale, N.H., suffered severe damage after a late night fire last August. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer file photo)
Tuesday November 27, 2012

HINSDALE, N.H. -- Townspeople seemed to have no anxiety about accepting a piece of land a local couple is interested in donating; most of the questions and comments at a public hearing Monday were about the new police station the space may one day hold.

About 35 people filed into the Town Hall's auditorium for the first of two public informational meetings regarding the potential donation to the town. The hearing was held prior to a Hinsdale Board of Selectmen meeting.

Lewis Major owns the building at 8 Main St. and rented out the store space to Nafiz Alkhatib, who ran a convenience store out of the first floor until August, when a two-alarm fire broke out in an uninhabited apartment on the second floor. No one was harmed in the blaze but Hinsdale Fire Chief Jay Matuszewski said the building suffered some water damage after firefighters from various departments extinguished the flames and the store has not reopened.

Major and his wife have since decided to donate the land to Hinsdale and, if accepted, it eventually will host a new police station. The town's police force has been working out of the temporary facility, on River Road, that it moved into in the 1980s.

Most of those in attendance at Monday's hearing asked about the costs and efficiency of the building that does not yet exist.

Town Administrator Jill Collins started the hearing by saying the town would like to purchase the former veterinary clinic next door to Major's building for $38,000 to $39,000 so the police station would have more space to expand. She said the demolition of the two current buildings should cost about $57,000 and the Hinsdale Highway Department would do the ground work and set up the site. She also said demolition of a small building behind the property would likely cost $3,000.

Since the former vet clinic is not being donated, its acquisition will have to be decided at Town Meeting in the spring.

Collins turned the meeting over the Peter Tennant, of Tennant/Wallace Architects, who explained to the crowd the plans he had on an easel at the front of the room and on his laptop computer. Tennant said the designs he was presenting were the ones he created under the possibility of the police station being built near Hinsdale Middle/High School. He said not much changed.

Tennant said the building would be 119 feet long and 31 feet wide and the only difference between the two plans is the absence of a sally port, a type of secure and controlled entryway.

With the first public question of the evening, Dorianne Almann said there is a small amount of asbestos in one of the buildings and asked if that is being factored into demolition costs. Collins assured her it is.

A few people asked what the Hinsdale Police building committee thinks of the possible location. Committee Chairman Peter Zavorotny, who was sitting in the audience, said the group looked into five locations, including two places on the New Hampshire Route 119 corridor and a space next to the current police station on River Road. He said the committee -- made up of himself, Vice Chairman and Hinsdale Senior Patrolman Mike Bomba, Joe Conroy, Chris Roberts, Katherine Cunningham, Jeanna Major (representative to the middle/high school), and Selectmen Mike Darcy and Richard Schill -- had previously recommended the River Road site but is comfortable with the spot on Main Street.

He said the positives of building a new station there far outweigh the negatives.

Almann expressed concern that $98,000 would be spent "before a single shovel full of dirt is turned over to start construction" and said taxpayers should be made aware of that.

Fred Wolfe then stood up to voice his support for accepting the donation of land and building a new police station there.

"Any of us who have been around here for at least 30 years or so remember when it was on Main Street ... and I always thought that was a great thing, having a police station right there," he said. "I was sad when it went all the way down on River Road. ... It was like out of sight, out of mind."

He said, as a taxpayer, he would be fine with paying to have the station built on Main Street because much of the activity the police department must respond to is near the site.

Hinsdale Police Chief Todd Faulkner and his predecessor, Wayne Gallagher, were in attendance and vocalized their support for the current plans. Faulkner previously told the Reformer he is more concerned about getting a new facility built than its location in town, and Gallagher said the officers need a bigger building in which to operate.

Selectman Jay Ebbighausen ended the meeting by saying constructing a state-of-the-art building on Main Street could help make Hinsdale more of a draw to people and businesses thinking of moving there. He said the station would fit right in with Town Hall, the Millstream Community Center and the post office on the other side of the street.

Fellow Selectman Richard Schill said he has an old-school mindset and feels a police station should be on a town's main street.

The second public informational meeting about the donation of land is set for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 10.

Major, who attended the hearing, told the Reformer he is looking to donate land because he is getting too old to maintain it and wants to do something nice for his town.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.