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Fate of proposed $8 million police station in residents’ hands

Date: 4/9/2015

WILBRAHAM – Residents at the Annual Town Meeting May 11 will be asked to approve an $8 million police station project, more than half of which would be funded by a debt exclusion.  

Interim Town Administrator Thomas Sullivan told Reminder Publications Article 20 calls for the funding of the new police station through the use of $750,000 in free cash, $950,000 in capital stabilization funds, $2.1 million within the Proposition 2½ debt limit. The remaining balance would be paid for through a $4.2 million debt exclusion.

The overall costs include purchasing land for the site, planning, designing, and constructing a new police station.

Originally the project was estimated at $9.4 million with a total area of 17,035 square feet, he noted. However, the Police Station Feasibility Subcommittee cut the size of the facility down to 15,800 square feet, which resulted in the current cost estimate of $8 million.

Sullivan said the project would likely be bonded for 15 years, which would result in a conservatively estimated tax impact of $78.52 to the average homeowner during year one and $49.78 during year 15. The interest rate is estimated at 4.3 percent.

“As we pay off our debt, the number we have to pay goes down as the years go on,” he explained.

The $4.2 million debt exclusion would also need to be approved by residents by ballot question during the Annual Town Election on May 16.

The Police Department will host an open house on April 11 and May 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Police Station Feasibility Subcommittee will also public forums on April 9 and 28 at 7 p.m. in the Brooks Room of the Wilbraham Public Library.

The proposed $38.3 million FY16 operating budget includes an increase of approximately $1.7 million from the current fiscal year, Sullivan said.

One large part of the budget was the town’s contribution of $23.5 million to the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District budget, he noted.

The district is faced with a $1.3 million shortfall in its FY16 budget and the town is recommending that an additional $920,353 be used from the Cathedral High School rental of Memorial Elementary School to help meet the district’s budgetary restraints, Sullivan said.

“Originally, we were going to try to use that money with a plan for doing the [Soule Road Elementary School door and window project],” he added.

The School Committee withdrew its application to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for reimbursement for that project in March.

“If the residents decide that they don’t want to give them the money, what would end up happening is we would be giving them less money,” he added. “The selectmen have already talked to our Finance Committee. We’ve talked to Hampden and the School [Committee] ahead of time, so basically the number in there is agreeable to Hampden and Wilbraham.

Hampden contributes 24 percent of the HWRSD school budget, while Wilbraham contributes 76 percent, Sullivan said.

Superintendent of Schools M. Martin O’Shea could not be reached for comment as of press time.  

The Police Department budget is $2.1 million and its nonrecurring budget includes money for the purchase of two new police vehicles as well as additional training for central dispatch staff.

Several articles also call for the use of funds for Department of Public Works (DPW) projects.

Article 49 calls for the use of $100,000 in free cash to be used for a sidewalk project along Main Street from Tinkham Road to Soule Road.

“The Vision Task Force had a study done and one of the things that came out of it was that people wanted more passive recreations and sidewalks looked at,” Sullivan said. “So, the DPW last year had done resurfacing along Main Street and at the same time they upgraded the new sidewalks.”

The town would like to continue its sidewalk repair projects on ongoing basis, he added. If possible, next year the sidewalks on Stony Hill Road would also be improved.

Article 19 calls for an appropriation of $150,000 in free cash from the Stabilization Fund to repave or resurface additional roadways.

Approximately $50,000 would be utilized to improve guardrails throughout the town as part of the DPW’s operating budget. The initiative began last year.

“We’re continuing that program this year,” he added. “We have $50,000. If you drive around town you’ll notice that some of the guardrails are not even there anymore, most notably on River Road. There were no guardrails next to the Chicopee River. There’s all new guardrails there now.”

The town hopes to replace all its guardrails within the next three to four years, Sullivan said.

The Information Technology (IT) Department budget of $431,881 also includes the salary for a new help desk position that would be full-time, he noted.

IT Director Nathan DeLong said there is currently a part-time web help desk position for managing town website postings such as agendas and minutes from boards and committees.

“What we’re looking to do is create kind of an overall web and support help desk so we can provide the triage for day-to-day IT stuff,” he added. “New emails and calls come in; tickets are generated in our system and then they can do most of the legwork like fix a little printing issue or tweak a problem with Microsoft Office.”

DeLong said the town has about 250 devices attached to its network, including cameras, laptops, and personal computers. Some computers are also utilizing Windows XP, which was “decommissioned” in April 2014.

“That’s a big problem,” he added. “That’s one of the issues as to why we want this help desk position because we have to do all the work of day-to-day stuff and then also we’re actively replacing XP systems with Windows 7 systems.”

Articles 29 through 39 focus on the use of Community Preservation Act (CPA) monies for town projects.

Article 30 calls for the use of $98,600 in CPA funds for the installation of windows at the Pines and Miles Morgan Housing Development and Article 32 calls for providing an American Disability Act accessible fishing and boating dock at Spec Pond for $44,000.

Article 36 calls for the use of $75,000 for the renovation of the Memorial and Soule Road Elementary School fields and the Spec Pond pavilion.

The article states that at Memorial Field funds would be used for installing new fencing and an irrigation well. For Soule Road, the money would go towards reseeding the entire complex, defining the infield and outfield areas, and adjusting the sprinkler heads for adequate watering. At the Spec Pond pavilion, funds would be used to replace its heavy metal bathroom doors, restore its floors, upgrade lighting, repaint the facility, and purchase new picnic tables.

Article 38 calls for the use of $150,000 to perform restoration work at Bruuer Pond and Sevey Park.