The Falmouth Select Board on Monday night, April 26, expressed its frustration over the lack of information available at Town Meeting that might have caused an article to fund renovations of the police station to fail.
Following the finance committee’s advice, Town Meeting members rejected the article, which sought $1.1 million. The finance committee recommended indefinite postponement of Article 12 on the warrant because members were not given details on the cost estimate.
“I do want to apologize to Town Meeting members, the finance committee and the select board for placing you in a difficult and awkward position regarding this important renovation project due to the late timing of our receipt of the final cost estimate,” Town Manager Julian M. Suso said.
The article will reappear at the November Town Meeting.
The station was built in 1969 and renovated in 1984. The first-floor renovation will create more office space, move the public records office closer to the public entrance and relocate the public meeting room so people do not go past sets of security doors where officers and detectives work.
“It is sorely needed,” Police Chief Edward A. Dunne said.
“To be honest, I am shocked it did not pass at Town Meeting,” he said. “What we really need is a new station, but in the meantime, we really need this.”
Select board chairwoman Megan E. English Braga said she called for a discussion to learn how the communication breakdown occurred.
“The article did not pass Town Meeting not because we do not support the project, but for lack of information including detailed cost analysis available to the board and Town Meeting members. We want to address how the process failed and how to correct it,” she said.
Select board member Douglas C. Brown said he wished he could have spoken in favor of the article.
“If I had seen the plan...I could have. I just didn’t have anything to go on,” he said.
Mr. Suso explained the process began in 2017 with a $50,000 appropriation for a feasibility study and to work with a local architect on space needs study. In March 2020 the town received a redesigned main level floor plan and cost estimate, but it did not include prevailing wage figures and details on an HVAC system, he said. Town officials received a cost estimate a month ago, but it was too expensive and the town finance director needed to rework the numbers, he said.
“We never got a good grasp on the numbers. We were working on the offices and wanted to see what we could do with the HVAC system and needed that comprehensive cost estimate with the HVAC included,” Finance Director Jennifer Mullen said.
She said she should have done a better job working with the finance committee on presenting the figures quicker.
“In the future, I know I need to do a better job,” she said.
Select board member Nancy R. Taylor reiterated the need for the redesign after touring the station last week.
“I am sort of embarrassed that we have six sergeants sharing a 13-by-15 office,” she said. “It felt claustrophobic in there and certainly that we are not providing adequate workspace for them.”
She also noted that the domestic violence coordinator works in an office without privacy and with filing cabinets pulling double duty as walls.
“I’m embarrassed for the office space for the domestic violence worker. If you are working with victims of domestic violence, you don’t want a room where people can hear the conversations,” Ms. Taylor said.
Mr. Suso presented the final cost estimates that were made available an hour before Town Meeting. The project cost is $1,129,547 with a 5 percent construction contingency and $65,000 for the architect for construction documents, bidding and construction oversight.
“This is a good project. As town manager, I take full responsibility and ask for support of the project in November,” he said.