2009-05-07 / Front Page

Police station expansion over budget

By Erin Tiernan

Insufficient funding to begin the renovations and expansion of the Jamestown Police Station prompted Town Council members to award a larger sum to the project at their Monday night meeting.

As of last year's Financial Town Meeting, taxpayers approved $400,000 for an 1,100-square-foot addition, to replace the building's heating and cooling unit and a portion of the roof, repaint the inside and replace flooring in the building. But after putting the job out to bid to contractors, it became evident the entire project scope would cost closer to $600,000.

The additional $200,000 needed to begin construction can be offset, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser explained, by town surplus and undesignated fund balances.

Michael Gray, the town engineer, urged the council to approve the additional funds. He said the building is in use 24 hours per day everyday and necessary repairs could not be completed if the project is scaled down to fit last year's budget.

"I think reducing any of the scope (of the project) to get this within budget would be either eliminating offices and lockers or just putting a Band Aid on the heating system," said Gray. "So my recommendation is that you consider keeping the project whole and giving us the additional funding."

The current low-bidder, Urbane Construction, was awarded the contract on the condition that renovations are not to exceed $454,900. Gray said he met with Urbane and the other two low bidders and worked to cut costs wherever possible.

Taxpayers will vote on the allocation of these funds at the 2009 Financial Town Meeting on June 1. Gray wanted the council's approval so that if the additional funds are approved by taxpayers, the project will be ready to break ground in early June.

Keiser predicted that the expansion and renovations to the police station will serve the town for decades to come. He estimated the heating and air conditioning unit will last for 20 years and said future expansions won't be necessary since staff increases are not expected.

Moving forward with other facilities projects, the council approved designs for the construction of a wood pile pier at East Ferry so the project could be put out to bid.

The project, estimated at $340,000, is budgeted by the Harbor Management Commission and funded through HMC's retained earnings.

Harbor commissioner Richard Anderson was in attendance. He told council members they would be able to approve the project's total costs after it went out to bid.

"In this economy, some bids will come back very, very good," he said.

The HMC considered five separate designs and ultimately decided on a plan that maximized the amount of touch and go dock space without narrowing the existing fairway width for boaters.

Harbor Commissioner Susan Little said the HMC is hoping to have construction completed before the 2010 boating season.

The owner of Conanicut Marine Services, Bill Munger, addressed safety issues relating to the proposed project. He said fishing was already a major hazard, as people cast into the waterway from the north and south. He said he has previously discussed his safety concerns with the council and has seen no attempt to remedy the situation.

Council members also decided to request final plans to renovate the public restrooms attached to the recreation center. They aim to build a facility that is easier to supervise and maintain.

Keiser said new restrooms would cost $80,000 to $90,000. Money is available in the recreation self-support fund, but instead of exhausting that fund, Keiser said he wanted to reach out to the local business community to support part of the project.

Barbara Szepatowski said she would like to see larger restrooms outside to deter the public from going inside the Recreation Center, where local kids congregate in the Teen Center. She said she was aware of vandalism and illegal activity that ensued behind the public restroom's closed doors.

"As someone who spends a lot of time at the rec center because of the Teen Center, I've seen a number of things that I find disturbing and one is the use of drugs in the restrooms," Szepatowski said. "You're going to find that activity a lot less if you have the ability for that not to be a locked room."

A new facility will have several stalls on both the male and female sides so that the main doors cannot be locked. The new design is expected to cut down on loitering and illegal activity in the restrooms and will allow for quicker, easier maintenance.

David Long addressed the council on behalf of the Charter Review Committee and presented recommendations to changes in grammar and strictness in the language of the town's charter.

He suggested giving the town administrator responsibility to fire department heads without council approval, since the administrator is involved in the day-to-day activity of the town.

Long focused on creating language that encouraged positive communication between members of the town council and town employees.

"We didn't want to make it (the charter policy) so strict that a council member can't exchange ideas with anyone in the town, so we were cognizant of not making the policy too draconian," he said.

The council also discussed clarifying the qualifications for being appointed to a town committee and considered election cycles.

Jamestown currently has off year election cycles and there is possible economic benefit to the town if elections are conducted on even years.

The Town Council will consider the recommendations of the Charter Review Board and welcomes public comment at the next meeting on Monday, May 18.

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