New Ipswich residents favor safety complex to solve police station problem

  • New Ipswich residents weigh in on proposals for a new police department during a forum at the Mascenic Regional High School on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • New Ipswich residents weigh in on proposals for a new police department during a forum at the Mascenic Regional High School on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • New Ipswich residents weigh in on proposals for a new police department during a forum at the Mascenic Regional High School on Tuesday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/12/2019 1:07:38 PM

New Ipswich residents overwhelmingly favored building a new police and fire department safety complex at a forum to discuss building new police station Tuesday night.

The Select Board said continuing to put off the problem isn’t feasible.

“We have a facility that’s woefully inadequate,” Selectman Bert Hamill said.

On Tuesday, residents attended a forum to discuss proposals for police facilities. The town’s Select Board intends to put forth a warrant article on the 2020 ballot, once again asking for funds to build a police station. This will be the third attempt at raising the funds, after a failed warrant article in March and another one in 2016.

When asked for a show of hands, the crowd showed unanimous support for pursuing a design of a new building behind the town offices, leaving enough room to also add a fire station in the future.

The Select Board presented an estimate of about $2 million to build a police station behind the town offices, designed to allow for a full safety complex at some point in the future.

This was also the option favored by people who responded to a survey sent out to residents, asking for preferences between a stand-alone police station and a safety complex.

Of the 472 people who responded to the survey, 137 said they would support a stand-alone police station, and 192 said they would support a safety complex. There were about 75 people who responded they wanted neither option or for the town to continue the status quo.

Currently, the department is housed in a rented office space, which is currently for sale.

It was originally intended to be a temporary measure after the department vacated the former police station due to mold issues, but the department has been housed there for almost a decade.

The department is undersized and does not have holding facilities for arrestees, the ability to adequately separate interviewees, a garage, or a separate entrance to bring arrestees through.

Veeser said these issues need to be addressed, one way or another, and said ignoring the department’s needs was like ignoring your car’s check engine light – it doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.

“Our check engine light is on,” Veeser said.

After residents turned down a proposal in March to purchase and renovate the building, the Select Board has turned back to the 2016 plan to tear down the former police building and build a new facility.

When asked about the costs or design of a full safety complex, Selectman David Lage said the design work for a full complex hadn’t been done. After struggling to get funds for a police station approved, he said, the board didn’t feel it was likely the town would support both a police and fire station building – which he said at a minimum would double the bottom line cost.

However, he said, the plans for the police station, worked up in 2016, were designed specifically to allow the town to build either an addition or a separate building for the fire station in the future.

Resident Pat Mittleider said she was in favor of a safety complex – adding she would be fine with building a police department now and adding a fire station later – and had also voted for the renovation plan in March.

“The conditions for our policemen are pretty appalling,” she said.

She said as a taxpayer, she understood the hesitance to increase taxes, but she also understood the need to provide emergency services with a safe, workable environment.

Some residents asked if there was any way to address the issues at the department now, rather than waiting for a vote.

Carol Romerill questioned whether the town had a contingency plan in the case the current building sold and the new owner told the department to vacate and if that option could be implemented now.

Selectman David Lage said Police Chief Tim Carpenter had looked at other spaces, town-owned or rentals, in town, but said everything available would be “worse than what we have now.”

When asked if there were modifications that could be made to the current building, short of a full renovation, such as adding an additional point of entry, Lage said the town couldn’t make modifications to a building it doesn’t own, and even if the landlord was amenable, there would have to be funds raised to do the work, and those costs wouldn’t be recovered if the town did move to new facilities.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.




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