Mendon Voters Facing a $5 Million Police Station Request
By Michelle Sanford Staff Reporter/Columnist · April 10, 2017
The Mendon Board of Selectmen continued discussing and debating how the new Police Station will be funded as the May 5 Annual Town Meeting approaches.
For some time, the Police Station Building Committee has been researching three different options concerning the construction of the new police headquarters. One option is to complete the construction on the shell built on Morrison Dr., which was initially the intended site for the new building. The other two options include renovating the old fire station on Main St. or build a new station there. After exploring all three options, the Committee narrowed their recommendations to renovate the former fire station or complete the construction of Morrison Dr.
According to the latest plans from the architectural firm Kaestle Boos, the estimated figure to renovate the old fire station is $4.99 million. However, because the fire station is deemed a historic building, it is believed that CPA funding could be utilized toward the price tag, thus decreasing the amount of a debt exclusion request. A 2015 cost estimate to complete the Morrison Dr. location is estimated at $3.36 million. However, it was noted during a March 29 meeting, costs for street lights, signage, and a secondary egress would need to be added to that figure, plus inflation costs because the estimate is two years old.
Now, depending on which option the Committee recommends to the Selectmen, the question is how the building will be funded. Selectman Rich Schofield has stated in the past he's been against the debt exclusion feeling it can be funded through the operational budget. Schofield believes that incoming revenue, including funding from the town's solar projects as well as the restructuring of the former Public Safety Director's salary, can help fund the new station.
Selectman Chris Burke has stated he's in favor of the debt exclusion noting that school debt is dropping off in 2017 so residents won't feel the tax impact of the police station. He adds taxes could still drop even with the new debt exclusion. Schofield said it would not be the same decrease should the debt exclusion pass.
Burke noted solar revenue cannot be considered reoccurring moneys. Should the debt exclusion pass, Burke said it would help to keep the community moving forward with capital needs and other future projects.
Since 2004, residents have rejected funding a police station four times.
During an April 3 meeting, the Selectmen approved wording for a debt exclusion article to be placed on the May 5 Annual Town Meeting warrant requesting $5 million for the police station. Selectman Mark Reil said they don't expect the price tag to be that high and "plan on being very creative" when determining the funding sources so tax payers are not burdened.
The Building Committee is working to have all final information presented to the Selectmen in time for residents to vote the project at the May 5 meeting, where a two/thirds majority vote is needed for approval. The ballot question will also be on the May 16 Town Election ballot, since Prop. 2½ overrides are a two-step process. A simple majority at the ballot is all that is needed.