New Ipswich police facilities expected to be back on the warrant in 2019

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, November 06, 2018 10:55AM

New Ipswich is considering asking for funds to purchase the building that houses the town’s police department at Town Meeting in March.

Assuring a space for the police department has been an ongoing conversation for years in New Ipswich, ever since a mold infestation forced the department from the town-owned Building No. 2, behind the town offices, to a rental space across the street.

The biggest uncertainty for the department has been that the building has been for sale since 2014, with no guarantee the department can continue to occupy the building beyond a year-to-year lease.

The town has been offered the right of first refusal at least twice before the building went on the market, but declined to pay the assessed value of the property, around $467,000 at the time. The property is now on the market for $395,000, which includes the building and an adjacent lot, for a total of about 5.5 acres of land.

Renovating the space, including a secured entrance, could cost significantly more, however.

Bert Hamill, the chair of the Planning Board, which drafts the town’s capital improvement plan, said in an interview Thursday that the Select Board has moved forward with commissioning some preliminary design work for a renovation of the police department in preperation for putting forth a warrant article in March for the purchase and renovation.

“It’s at least 10 or 12 years since we first promised the police we would provide them a new building,” Hamill said. “The Selectmen do want to offer the town an alternative plan.”

Though Hamill said it was a “ballpark” number, the Capital Improvement Plan has estimated the total cost to purchasing the land and renovating the building could be $1.2 million, a price the town would be likely to bond.

In the past, the town has looked at other options for the police department, including building a safety complex with room to house the police department, the fire department and the emergency management department.

In 2017, the town voted down a proposal to spend $170,000 for the first year’s payment on a $1.98 million bond to build such a safety complex in the space behind the town hall. Residents turned down the proposal 557-256.

Given the public resistance to building a new facility, Hamill said the renovation of the current space was likely to be a “hard sell” for voters.

Old Town Hall

The Select Board has also discussed plans to invest funds into the Old Town Hall on Main Street. Work has been done on the hall this fall to shore up a crumblin sill that made the building unsafe for occupancy for the past several years. But prior to that, the building was typically only used once a year, to house the White Elephant sale during the annual Children’s Fair in August.

The Select Board has discussed doing both interior and exterior renovations on the building over the course of three years to make the building more suitable for regular events.

Scheduled on the Capital Improvement Plan for 2020-2022, the renovations are estimated to cost between $50,000 and $100,000, Hamill said.

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