Preliminary Plans Unveiled For $26 Million Public Safety Building in South Sandwich
By: Mary Stanley
The capital improvement planning committee got its first look Monday at draft drawings for a joint fire and police facility.
The group was impressed with the 60,000-square-foot facility that includes six bays for ambulances, separate sleeping and bathroom facilities for male and female firefighters and a combined central dispatch center.
While some did not flinch at the $26 million price tag, others were a bit concerned.
“At the last meeting, a 60,000-square-foot building was $18 million. This is a bigger number,” said capital committee member Donald R. Leighton.
“Actually, I was surprised that the number wasn’t higher,” said committee Chairman John W. Juros in a telephone interview this week.
To build it for anything less, it would not be worth doing, Mr. Juros said.
Town Manager George H. Dunham said the $30 million project, if bonded over 20 years at an interest rate of 4 percent, would cost the average taxpayer in town an additional $247 a year. That additional cost would decrease over the span of 20 years.
Mr. Juros said the project still needs to go through the design development phase, which includes looking at site conditions. “Site conditions have a very big effect on cost. The design development phase gets into the nitty-gritty and that’s where the numbers come out. We will be able to make the estimate much tighter, but I don’t see the number moving significantly one way or the other,” he said.
The plans call for administrative offices on the second level of the building, a public meeting room, storage space on the basement level, and even space for the town’s Emergency Management Team to set up equipment, in the event of a big storm or natural disaster.
Currently, that team gathers in the basement level of the Human Services Building on Quaker Meetinghouse Road. This new joint public safety facility would be built on town-owned land just across from the Stop & Shop Supermarket on Quaker Meetinghouse Road.
Mr. Juros said cutting back on the size of the building to reach a certain dollar amount could compromise the amount of space that is truly needed. “If you compromise on space, a year later the building won’t be large enough,” Mr. Juros said.
Mr. Juros pointed out that, given today’s economy, there has never been a better time to build such a facility.
“Right now, the bidding environment is terrific and it is still going to be terrific over the next few years. It is cost-effective to do this now,” Mr. Juros said.
Mr. Dunham said building this facility will not require increasing staff in either of the safety departments.
“I don’t anticipate increasing fire or police department staff. We don’t see that happening,” Mr. Dunham said.
In May, Town Meeting approved spending up to $125,000 to conduct a study of building a new joint public safety building in the town. The town hired Foxboro-based Kaestle Boos Associates as consultants for that. To date, the town has spent $60,000 of the money.
Members of the capital committee as well as the police and fire chiefs and Mr. Dunham visited a number of towns that had built joint public safety buildings.
Mr. Dunham said Harwich has a new facility; however, he pointed out that that town had built its facility in phases.
The group also visited the Town of Holden which has a similar but smaller facility. “It’s smaller but it’s laid out well,” Mr. Dunham said.
Mr. Juros said the next step in the process will be to bring these preliminary draft plans before the board of selectmen. That presentation is expected to be scheduled for the board’s February 16 meeting.
The members agreed that bringing the project before voters at Town Meeting in May is too soon.
“This won’t make the May Town Meeting but it could possibly make a Special Town Meeting in the fall or even next winter,” said Mr. Leighton.
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