Cheaper alternatives for Bow public safety building proposed
Upset by costly plans to build a new public safety building, a group of Bow residents has successfully petitioned to put a far less expensive alternative before voters at town meeting.
For the second year in a row, the selectmen support plans to build a new public safety building that would house the fire, emergency management and police departments. Last year, voters narrowly rejected a $7.7 million proposal; since then, selectmen cut nearly $1 million from the project. If it fails again, voters will take up a fallback plan: a $6 million renovation of the existing building.
The petitioned proposal presents a third option, requiring only $225,000 in spending.
That proposal was put forward by the Concerned Taxpayers of Bow, who garnered 106 signatures, four times the number required to put an issue before voters. It calls for repairing only the center’s wiring and the kitchen venting system. Both were found in code violation by the state fire marshal following an inspection in May.
Chuck Douglas, an attorney and organizer of the group, said constructing a new center is too costly, and that these repairs, while they won’t fix everything, will be a start. “It will go a long way,” he said. “Certainly next year when they get more estimates on different things that need to be fixed, hopefully we can address those.”
Jack Crisp, chairman of the board of selectmen, disagreed. “This is not an alternative to the public safety building,” he said. “It won’t satisfy all the safety issues the fire marshal has for the building.”
Douglas said the proposal will tackle two major concerns of the state fire marshal. He said a third – providing residential space for firefighters – has been addressed, because the town has already moved the firefighters’ quarters to a separate building. By 2016, the fire marshal has said, the entire building must be up to code.
Douglas did acknowledge that the plan doesn’t address every issue. “Will it do everything that anyone might possibly want done?” he said. “No.”
The dollar amount in the petitioned article is based on an estimate by an electrical engineer, who put the cost of repairing the building’s wiring between $175,000 and $225,000, Douglas said. “We took the middle of that, said, ‘Okay, that’s $200,000,’ ” he said, then added roughly $25,000 for the venting system.
The selectmen question the math. The building is nearly 60 years old, Selectman Harry Judd said, and there could be more costs once workers start pulling the place apart.
“You are not going to know what the cost is until you start doing it and opening the walls up,” Crisp said.
The issue will be decided at town meeting March 12. Because the two more expensive options both involve borrowing money, they would require a two-thirds majority to pass. The $225,000 option needs only a simple majority.
If the new building passes, voters will also consider equipping it with a geothermal heating and cooling system for an additional $200,000.
Town officials are holding an open house at the current fire and police buildings March 5 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
The taxpayers’ group will also work to educate voters about their proposal.
Mark Vincent, a member of the group and owner of Vincent Construction, said he’s concerned that increased spending will drive people out of Bow.
“It is going to become a town of haves,” he said, “and the nots are going to have to go.”
(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)