Tuesday January 29, 2013

HINSDALE, N.H. -- Locals voiced their thoughts on the police station project Monday night in the first of two scheduled public hearings on the matter.

The hearing lasted a half-hour before Board of Selectmen Chairman John Smith closed it to begin the board's weekly meeting.

Peter Tennant of Tennant/Wallace Architects was on hand with some conceptual designs and went through them on a screen for the audience of about 20 people.

He said the plan is for a 4,400-square-foot facility that will include a training room, locker room, booking room, and dispatch area as well as offices for the chief and lieutenant and potentially a three-vehicle garage.

Tennant said he came up with two cost estimates -- one of $1,125,636 and the other of $998,319. He diagrammed each estimate and explained how he arrived at those totals by factoring in all expenses. He said the only way to keep the project under $1 million would be to go without the garage.

Resident Peter Mailloux asked why the designs were so large.

"Can't we go smaller? We don't have that many police officers," he said, adding that Winchester has more officers and a smaller police station than Hinsdale.

The current design gives personnel the space they need to carry out their responsibilities, according to Tennant. The building will not include holding cells.


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Hinsdale resident Brian Walker asked how the project will be paid for and Smith said the money will come from a Walmart development fund (the corporation gave money to the town for future emergency purposes when it moved in), a town building fund over the past two years and possibly some grants. But the town cannot apply for grants until it receives voter approval to acquire the former veterinary clinic, which will have to be demolished, next door to the designated site on Main Street. Voters will decide on Town Meeting Day in March.

Smith also said there is a remote possibility of getting funds from Vermont Yankee because the company has a stake in Hinsdale's safety and security.

Lewis Major owned the building at 8-10 Main St. After a fire caused significant damage to the building last August Major decided to donate the land to the town.

The police department has operated out of a temporary facility on River Road since the 1980s; the board recently opted to accept the land donation to construct a more adequate home for the town's police force.

Walker asked why the police department is getting "curb service" from the Board of Selectmen when it takes between two hours and a day and a half to respond to calls.

"I don't think the townspeople are getting treated fairly," he said.

Mailloux agreed with Walker, saying he has to no avail left several messages with dispatch asking Police Chief Todd Faulkner to call him.

Faulkner, who coincidentally was sitting right behind Mailloux in the audience, said he was unaware of it ever taking a day and a half to respond to a call.

"I can tell you it is not rare for the officers to have to handle multiple calls and if you call in a barking dog complaint during a time when we have a domestic arrest, it could very well take that long," he said to Walker before addressing Mailloux. "As far as phone calls for me that I haven't returned, I'm not aware you called."

Faulkner said he would look into Walker's claim that it has taken a day and a half to respond to calls. He said he would also be happy to talk about any complaints.

At 6:45 p.m., Smith closed the public hearing and the selectmen eventually -- as part of the public portion of their meeting -- entered Town Administrator Jill Collins' office to discuss the tax rate.

After some deliberation, the selectmen voted unanimously to set the tax rate at $24.781, up from $23.690 last year.

Note: The next public hearing on the police station issue is set for Monday, Feb. 11.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311. You can follow him @dpoli_reformer.