HINSDALE, N.H. -- The town's police force is now homeward bound.
The department, which has been operating out of a temporary facility on River Road since the 1980s, is officially closer than it has ever been to getting a new station as the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Monday to accept a donated piece of Main Street property.
Lewis Major owns the building at 8-10 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 soon after decided to donate the land to the town for the purpose of building a new station.
Monday's decision came after much deliberation, as public hearings were held on Nov. 26 and Dec. 10. The town's planning board voted unanimously to recommend the donation to the selectmen at a meeting two weeks ago.
Leaving Hinsdale Town Hall on Monday, Major said he was relieved the whole process was over. He previously told the Reformer he chose to donate the land because he feels he is getting too old to be a landlord and he does not want to deal with the responsibilities any longer. He said he was born and raised in Hinsdale and was interested in doing something nice for the town.
The board thanked Major for his generous gift on Monday.
At the public hearing on Nov. 26, Town Administrator Jill Collins said 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 $55,000 to $57,000 and the Hinsdale Highway Department would do the ground work and set up the site. She also said the demolition of a small building behind the property would likely cost $3,000. She said Major's property is about a half-acre.
On Monday, Major told the selectmen the two tenants in the small building are hoping to stay put for as long as possible, as they have already purchased wood chips for the winter. Selectman Mike Darcy said nothing would be done that soon, though he did not specify when construction will begin.
Peter Zavorotny, chairman of the Hinsdale Police building committee, told the Reformer he had looked into five locations, including two spots on the New Hampshire Route 119 corridor and a space next to the current police station on River Road. The committee - made up of Zavorotny, Vice Chairman and Hinsdale Senior Patrolman Mike Bomba, Joe Conroy, Chris Roberts, Katherine Cunningham, Jeanna Major (representative to Hinsdale Middle/High School), and Selectmen Mike Darcy and Richard Schill - had previously recommended the River Road site.
He said Major's property would be fine for a police station but the town would have to purchase the former apartment facility next door to have enough space. The wooden-frame building was damaged in a winter fire a few years ago and has not had any tenants since that time.
Darcy has said a building on that lot of land would meet all expectations and concerns expressed by townspeople in a survey at Town Meeting a few years ago. Voters also appropriated $25,000 into a Capital Reserve Fund in order to construct a new station by a 103 to 15 margin.
In 2011, the Reformer reported that a townwide questionnaire indicated 11 percent of the town's 314 residents thought the current location was excellent. Nearly 200 rated its condition as fair or poor, more than 60 percent supported the idea of building a new structure and more than a third were in favor of a downtown location. Darcy and Major have both said constructing a police station on the site could help reinvigorate Hinsdale's downtown area. Darcy also mentioned it is inspiring to know something positive can come out of the building being gutted by a fire.
"It seems like a good fit," he said, adding that there would be minimal site costs.
Hinsdale Police Chief Todd Faulkner told the planning board the current plan should meet the needs of his department.
"Growth is something we have to plan for," Faulkner said at the meeting. "I think we'd be better able to serve the town on Main Street (as opposed to other possible locations)."
He said an agreement was reached on the design, crafted by architect Peter Tennant of Tennant/Wallace Architects. At the first public meeting, Tennant said the building would be 119 feet long and 31 feet wide.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.