Selectmen voted four to one last night in favor of asking voters to approve a $30 million joint public safety facility in South Sandwich. The proposal will be presented to voters at both Town Meeting and the polls in the form of a Proposition 2 ½ debt exclusion.
Selectman Frank Pannorfi cast the sole vote against the project.
In a plea to his fellow board members to bring the question before voters, selectman Ralph A. Vitacco said: “We ask our first responders to show no trepidation when going into a building. I am asking you to show no trepidation and bring this to the people. We have to show a will and desire to move this forward. We have to show a will and desire to make this happen.”
During last night’s selectmen’s meeting, which was devoted solely to the topic of the joint public safety building, Chairman of the Capital Improvements Planning Committee John W. Juros urged the board to send the proposal forward, and let the voters decide.
“The issue before you is so vital and so important to the residents of Sandwich. This is the time for leadership. This is the time to strike and get this facility built once and for all. On behalf of the CIPC, we support this 100 percent and we ask you to take leadership,” Mr. Juros said.
Harold L. Weeks of Foster Road agreed. “There are two things that communities are proud of: their schools and their public safety facilities. It is time for Sandwich to step up and improve its public safety facilities,” Mr. Weeks said.
Prior to the board’s discussion on the issue, engineer Sebastian Amenta of Comprehensive Environmental Incorporated, who is serving as a consultant for the Sandwich Economic Initiative Corporation, asked the board to vote in favor of moving the project forward.
He said once South Sandwich Village Center and the Industrial Park are fully developed, the revenues from those projects will help lessen the burden of the public safety building on taxpayers.
But not everyone at the meeting was praising the project. Mr. Pannorfi, for one, ticked off a list of concerns, from the size and scope of the building to the configuration of the proposed parking lot.
The issue before you is so vital and so important to the residents of Sandwich. This is the time for leadership. This is the time to strike and get this facility built once and for all.
“There is no question that the two current buildings have outlived their usefulness. I just don’t agree that this is the solution. Ninety five percent of the people I have talked to have said they are not against replacing the buildings but they are afraid that the plan is too large and too costly. The bottom line for me is that we should put forth a modified plan, something significantly less than what is being proposed. If you are serious about doing this, I think you need to think about this,” Mr. Pannorfi said.
Selectman Linell M. Grundman agreed with Mr. Pannorfi’s points regarding the size and scope of the project and questioned whether reductions could be made that would not jeopardize the mission of the project but still show taxpayers that the town understands their financial constraints.
She said she hoped that if the project did not pass at Town Meeting or the polls, it would not end all discussions.
“If this does not pass, my hope is that we do not whine and that we get back in there and figure out what we need to do to bring it to the public,” Ms. Grundman said.
Board Chairman John G. Kennan, Jr. said he preferred to let the voters decide the issue.
“Given what I am hearing, I have to have the voters in town say ‘yay’ or ‘nay,” he said.
Following the 4-1 vote, R. Patrick Ellis of Spring Hill Road applauded the board’s action. “Be prepared at Town Meeting. Do this in a way where you plan to win. Set yourself up for success,” he said.