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Sudbury

Town to vote again on new police station

Six years after voters rejected plans for a new police station, Sudbury residents will get a chance to reconsider a scaled back and less expensive project at Town Meeting this spring.

The Board of Selectmen voted to place an article on the May 6 warrant asking residents to approve borrowing $7.5 million for a new police station on Hudson Road near the fire station.

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“We’re definitely in need of major upgrades to the police station,’’ said Selectman Larry O’Brien, the board’s chairman.

Residents turned down a proposal for an $8.2 million, 18,000-square-foot station in 2007. Since then, the Board of Selectmen appointed a Police Station Blue Ribbon Committee to reconsider the project, based on feedback from residents.

The committee found that the currentbuilding lacks adequate space for its present-day function, and is in need of major repairs, design upgrades, and infrastructure revisions to meet current standards and demands.

Jim Kelly, Sudbury’s facility director, said some residents felt the earlier project was too big and too expensive. This time, the proposed station would be 14,000 square feet and cost less. The current building is about 50 years old and has 6,400 square feet, Kelly said.

He said there will be an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, allowing residents to see current conditions at the 415 Boston Post Road facility, and ask questions about its proposed replacement.

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“We really want to get the word out to the residents so they can ask questions,’’ Kelly said.

If the project is approved at Town Meeting, the selectmen would call a special election for a townwide vote on a property tax increase, through a Proposition 2½ debt-exclusion override, to pay for it.

The project would increase the tax bill on the average single-family home in town by $89 the first year, and the tab would go down over the 20-year-life of the construction bond, Kelly said. The official number would depend on the final cost and terms of the loan, he said.

Police Lieutenant Scott Nix said the department has made the station work at its current location for 50 years, and would continue to do so if it is not approved.

But he said a new facility would allow the department to operate more efficiently, and without the risk of a technological or communications failure.

Nix said not only is the space inadequate, but the building is in need of many repairs.

“If this facility fails, if a water pipe bursts and we lose our 911 center and have no place to hold prisoners, we have nowhere else to go,’’ Nix said. “It would be catastrophic if our facility went down and we weren’t able to dispatch our calls.’’

Nix said some of the shortcomings of the building are that staff and detainees share common routes in the building; the booking, interrogation, and detention areas do not meet current standards; the dispatch area is too small; there is inadequate space for computer and telecommunications equipment; and it lacks enough room for evidence and equipment storage.

Even though a new station was turned down a few years ago, O’Brien thinks it has a better chance this year.

“I believe there is a greater level of awareness within the community that the police station is an aging facility that is structurally 50 years old, but is a building that does not have the ability to be upgraded for the type of police work required in today’s society,’’ he said.

O’Brien said the time is also right now because the town is on solid financial footing. He said it is retiring some of the debt it has carried for school construction projects, and has an excellent bond rating.

“Interest rates are low, we’ve got a great location of town-owned land, and it will conveniently create a public safety campus right in the center of town,’’ O’Brien said.

Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached by e-mail at jflefferts@ yahoo.com.

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