OAKLAND — It came down to money.

The most frequent answer to a survey asking why voters rejected a proposed police, fire and town office building was that the project would have raised their property taxes.

The poor economy was second most common survey response.

Of the 158 surveys returned, 61 people reported their property taxes were already too high and they struggled to pay existing bills, said Town Manager Peter Nielsen.

The poor economy worried 35 people, who indicated they were uncertain about job prospects, and many did not believe the economy would improve soon, according to Nielsen.

Nielsen said a number of respondents expressed concern about fuel, food and living expenses and some criticized town officials for not recognizing that townspeople had these concerns.

A number of residents who returned the surveys objected to spending tax money to do the survey, said Nielsen. He said the survey cost $716 to make and mail.

Thirty-four respondents said the proposed building was too elaborate, Nielsen said.

Town officials had said the $4.9 million police, fire and town office’s price tag would have represented $56 annually in property taxes on a $100,000 home, or slightly more than $1 a week.

Town councilors had requested that Nielsen prepare a survey because they wanted insight as to why voters last November rejected the project, 1,165-841.

The survey asked people to cite the most significant reason why the referendum was rejected, to specify any other significant factors involved and whether changes could be made to the proposed project so it would be acceptable and, if so, to list them.

Survey recommendations for reducing the cost of the municipal complex included that the structure be wooden instead of masonry and steel and that it have a smaller footprint.

The furniture budget of $125,000 was also criticized, said the town manager.

Some respondents favored building the complex in phases, said Nielsen. Some said the police station should be built first; others said a fire station should come first.

Some respondents favored additions to the existing buildings, Nielsen said, and others said that police, fire and Town Office personnel make the best of what they have.

Nine survey respondents reported that they voted in favor of the proposed building, Nielsen said.

Nielsen invited townspeople to review the surveys at the Town Office.

The 27,953-square-foot state-of-the-art structure proposed by Oakland’s Building Committee would have replaced three separate aging buildings at the town-owned site on Fairfield Street. In April 2009, the council created a building study committee to assess how municipal facilities could best serve the community for the next 50 to 75 years.

The proposed 5,822-square-foot police department space separated offenders from the general public. It had two sally port bays — secure, controlled entryways — as well as ventilated evidence storage, interrogation rooms and a booking room.

The proposed fire station included five bays for trucks and firefighting equipment, an operation center, gear washing equipment, a commercial kitchen and bunk rooms in the event the department were to have around the clock staffing.

The proposed 6,248-square-foot Town Office space featured a large council room, all offices on one level and 74 parking spaces.

The suggestions were divergent and “reflect thoughtful consideration from people of various persuasions,” said Nielsen, who Wednesday night reported findings from the survey to the council.

Some who attended the meeting asked councilors why they were again talking about a municipal building when it had already been voted down, the town manager said.

“The Town Council and I explained we wanted to know if it was no forever, or for 100 years or for a shorter span of time,” Nielsen said. “The desire was to have information about what had motivated people to vote the way they did.”

After Wednesday’s meeting, Nielsen said the council would not likely be bringing back the issue before voters anytime soon.

The Building Committee is slated to meet Feb. 13.

Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]