Brattleboro board not supportive of phasing police-fire project
BRATTLEBORO — Grappling with what to do next, Selectboard members agreed that phasing police and fire facility projects would not be wise.
"There has been inquiry from people about whether we should do all pieces of the project," Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein said Tuesday. "The needs are pressing at all of the locations and some of the work needs to be done at all the locations. Delaying work at one of the locations will ultimately mean we'll have to come back to it in three or five or seven years out after doing some immediate needs work right away."
Upgrades are needed at the police and fire department facilities. There is talk of moving the police department to Black Mountain Road, where the town has entered into a purchase option agreement with the owners of the Reformer building. The site seems more viable financially but concerns about moving out of Municipal Center continue to be addressed.
Several alternatives with different price tags were shown to approximately 130 residents at three public meetings. Board member Donna Macomber said she didn't hear feedback indicating public interest in finding more options.
"I'm all for doing as much as we can," said Selectboard member John Allen, who feels the board should not put the decision onto future boards or residents. "This is our decision to make and I just think we should make it for as far into the future as we possibly can."
The board is looking at the possibility of holding a special town meeting on March 12 before regular Representative Town Meeting on March 19. A warning would need to be prepared by the first week of February.
With the town and school budgets on the warning, Gartenstein said he was not convinced those items plus a potential bond vote could all be addressed on March 19.
A ballot on Election Day on March 1 has been mentioned as a way to gather additional input. Macomber wondered if "expert guidance" could be sought for wording.
"I've drawn a blank. It's difficult to phrase the inquiry. It's difficult to parse it out into different pieces," said Gartenstein. "I'm worried about just putting a whole range of alternatives onto a ballot without sufficient explanation for the electorate result."
He suggested holding a public meeting in February after a series of Selectboard meetings where items of concerns around the project are scheduled to be discussed.
Board member David Schoales supported a discussion and vote in March if there was consensus on the board about "the best thing to do."
With so many pieces, board member Kate O'Connor said she thought the process sounded easier than it is.
"There's so many things that can drive that car into a wall," she said. "We don't need this to collapse again."
A bond for similar projects was approved three years ago. A budget was approved by Town Meeting in March 2014 but then a referendum kept the projects from getting started.
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