NEWBURY – Town Meeting voters will be asked to vote on a new building on the site of the current police station that combines Town Hall and the Police Department in a $12 million structure that officials say meets the needs of both for the long term.
Town Administrator Tracy Blais and Police Chief Michael Reilly highlighted details of the proposed combined structure this week and they will be laid out for voters at Town Meeting on Tuesday.
The latest iteration addresses the need for a new police station, creates the professional space required for town offices, and would keep both operations separate to meet security concerns, they said.
The structure would be an expansion of the current footprint of the police station at High Road and Morgan Avenue, with the architect's rendering showing a design that, in many ways, mirrors the current building's appearance.
Voters have gone through many rounds of proposals in recent years that involved a new police station at a different site and renovation of the Town Hall for municipal offices, but this proposal aims to create one building as a "municipal center," according to Blais.
She said if two-thirds of Town Meeting voters approve the plan, and it is also given the OK at the polls by a majority of voters, it would increase the annual property taxes by $275 on an average home valued at $500,000 for 28 years to pay off the bond.
The combined building would give police the new structure that has been discussed for years, and allow town offices to move out of rented space on Kent Way and into the top floor of the new building.
Police would have a separate entrance on the Morgan Avenue side, and a "sally port" — a secure rear entry where a police cruiser could drive in with a person in custody — while town offices would be accessed from the High Road side.
Reilly is pleased with the proposal.
"I couldn't be happier with the architect's work," he said. "This building meets all the needs of the Police Department."
Besides having to make due in cramped quarters that don't meet current state requirements, the chief said the antiquated quarters have discouraged some officers from staying with the department.
The new quarters would include locker areas for men and women, secure areas for interviews, office space and a larger training or meeting room that would be shared with town officials who would use it for board and committee meetings.
As designed by Context Architecture of Boston, the proposed building "would be a huge point in retaining officers," the chief said.
Blais stressed that the $12 million is the full amount and the $6.5 million plan voters previously approved for Town Hall renovations and a new police station would be rescinded by a Town Meeting vote, not added to the proposed figure.
Blais said combining town offices and police in one building would yield a savings of about $1 million in construction costs versus two separate structures, and the combined facility would reduce the cost of utilities, cleaning and maintenance required for two buildings.
Town Planner Martha Taylor said the new design "really gives us the municipal campus which we're been aiming for" and would be "much more efficient" than two buildings. The 18,000-square-foot building would provide "one-stop shopping" in a central location, Blais said.
Taylor noted the design was reduced from 22,000 square feet to 18,000 to save on cost, while still retaining the necessary elements.
Blais said town officials and members of the building committee worked to come up with what they believe is the best plan to put before Town Meeting. "We eliminated, we combined and we're sharing," she said.
Taylor added, "There's no fluff here."
The $12 million figure that will go before Town Meeting includes the cost to move the Newbury police into space next door in the Morgan Avenue fire station and a temporary trailer during the expected 12 to 18 months it would take for construction, Blais said.
If the article fails at Town Meeting or the polls, the town administrator said it would have to be brought back again for a vote.
"This is the most efficient program we can provide that will make a fully functioning Police Department and Town Hall," she said.
Besides citing the potential savings of having a combined building, Blais said town officials are working on other ways to reduce expenses and bring in revenue.
She said Selectman Damon Jespersen is looking into the possibility of the town receiving a reduced rate for financing through the Federal Housing Administration and also cited a letter from Peter Quimby, head of school at The Governor's Academy, who said the school is committed to "increase its giving to the town and will designate those increased gifts specifically in support of this important project."
Richard K. Lodge is editor of The Daily News. Follow him on Twitter @RichardLodge_DN.