BRATTLEBORO — Public input is being sought as Selectboard members form their opinions around police and fire facility projects before Representative Town Meeting.
"I think the integrity of this survey is important for us to really get a finger on the pulse of where the majority of the community members are coming from with regard to this huge decision," board member Donna Macomber said in support of attaching names to the proposed three-page questionnaires during Tuesday's meeting. "I think if you have strong feelings about it then we should hear from you."
Names and addresses are optional in the survey available online at surveymonkey.com/r/CFSF6R5. Paper copies can be found at the town manager's office, town clerk's office and Brooks Memorial Library. They can be submitted by e-mailing email@example.com. They can also be dropped at the town manager's office at the Municipal Center.
The deadline is Jan. 18. Results are expected to come up at a Selectboard meeting the next day.
Details and costs are included in the document, which asks participants about their preferences. Discussion at meetings prompted the board to reach out to the public.
Resident Jay Jacobowitz called the debt and impact on tax rates "inconsequential" compared to the needs of the departments. He had attended an informational meeting — there were three held at various locations — and brought attention to police not necessarily needing to be downtown.
Response times have more to do with officers' locations as they are in assigned sectors more often than not. This alleviated Macomber's concerns about moving away from the downtown, she said.
Recalling Police Chief Mike Fitzgerald's presentation, Jacobowitz said an option on Black Mountain Road would solve six out of six problems where a Municipal Center "patch up" would not.
But while drafting the survey and describing options for improving the facilities, Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein said he became "less convinced" about moving the police department to Black Mountain Road. The town previously entered into a purchase option agreement for $20,000 to hold the property, where the Reformer newspaper operations are housed. Under the agreement, the newspaper would stay as a tenant for at least five years.
"I feel really strongly that we need to be the most vigilant as possible about costs as a whole because this project is expensive," said Gartenstein. "I have become convinced that the fire department program as currently presented to us in terms of building an addition at Central Fire and building a new station in West Brattleboro are the bare minimum that are necessary in order to serve the public. We have fire equipment that won't fit into those buildings and doing anything less than the $6 million alternative at Central Fire and the $1.5 million alternative at West Brattleboro just won't serve our needs."
Comparing the alternatives for police, Gartenstein said he felt many of the needs were addressed in a smaller $2.5 million project where upgrades would be made at current police headquarters at the Municipal Center. That would include the construction of a sallyport and other improvements involving privacy, access, evidence storage and separating male and female locker rooms.
Board Vice Chairwoman Kate O'Connor also voiced concerns around relocating out of the downtown area.
"We have to do these projects," she said. "I haven't heard enough yet to move to Black Mountain Road."