OAKLAND — The consensus among residents Wednesday night appeared to be that the town’s police, fire and town office personnel need a new building.

The sticking point seemed to be whether this was the right time to construct the proposed 27,953-square-foot building, which comes with a $4.9 million price tag.

About 50 people attended the building study committee’s public forum moderated by Rep. Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, at Williams Elementary School. After a PowerPoint presentation by Dave Groder, captain of the fire department and chairman of the building study committee, residents asked questions and weighed in with their opinions.

Groder said now is the time to build because of historically low interest rates and because construction bids would be very competitive.

The $4.9 million cost represents $56 annually in property taxes on a $100,000 home, or slightly more than $1 a week.

Oakland finance director Doug Mather said the average home in Oakland is valued at between $150,000 and $175,000, which would equate to about $62 and $73, respectively, added annually to homeowners’ tax bills.

Michelle Estes said she works for the town’s fire department and emergency medical services and was upset that people were quibbling about that amount of money.

“When you dial 9-1-1, we are the ones showing up,” she said. “It’s not you guys who are in danger. We’re fighting for you guys.”

Angela Jurdak, a member of Oakland’s Budget Committee, said she voted against building the proposed facility.

“There are people on Social Security and people who are unemployed,” she said. “I work for the school and there are a lot of kids on free and reduced lunch. People can’t make ends meet, and I saw this as being the difference between a lien on a home and a foreclosure on a home.”

Groder’s PowerPoint highlighted problems with all three of the current structures. None comply with accessibility standards and none are energy efficient.

The 1950s-era fire department, he said, does not have a sprinkler system and the bays are not adequately sized for today’s fire-fighting equipment.

The circa 1900s police station does not have fire detection or suppression systems and does not have a secure entrance for prisoners.

The Town Office lacks a sprinkler system, most storage is off-site and council chambers are cramped.

Groder encouraged residents to have a look at all three buildings.

“A bird’s-eye view is best,” he said.

Financing for the building would be a 30-year loan with a 3.75 percent interest rate, or $280,438 a year. Ten percent of the $4.9 million price tag is a contingency, so the price could drop to $4.5 million.

In April 2009, the council created a building study committee to assess how municipal facilities could best serve the community now and for the next 50 to 75 years. Committee members are Jan Porter, Ramona Freeman, Jon Cox, A.J. Cain, Joe Feeley, Gary Levesque, Eric Sharpe, Shawn Stevens, Dennis McLellan and Groder.

The proposed Police Department portion would separate offenders from the general public. The 5,822-square-foot space would have two sally port bays — secure, controlled entryways — as well as a ventilated evidence storage facility, interrogation rooms and a booking room.

The proposed fire station includes five bays for trucks and fire-fighting equipment, an operation center, gear washing equipment, bunk rooms if the department moves to around the clock staffing and a commercial kitchen.

The proposed 6,248-square-foot Town Office space features a large council room, all offices on one level and more parking. There will be 74 parking spaces for citizens and employees.

If the referendum is approved, Town Manager Peter Nielsen said ground would be broken in March or April. Sheridan Corp. of Fairfield designed the structure and would build it. If the referendum fails, Nielsen said the plans have a good shelf life and could be revisited when the economy improves.

Fire Chief Dave Coughlin said whether Article 3 passes or fails, “We’ll continue to give you the service we give you now.”

Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]


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