CLINTON — Residents in November will be asked to approve the purchase of land for a new fire and rescue station, a move that’s part of a broader effort to improve the town’s public safety buildings.

Selectmen on Tuesday OK’d a special election for Nov. 2 in which voters will determine whether to purchase 37 Baker St. — a parcel next to the town office — for $120,000, using money from the town’s undesignated surplus fund.

The board also signed a preliminary purchase-and-sale agreement for the property. The sale is contingent on voter approval in November and could be disrupted if another buyer is interested before the vote. As part of the agreement, the town will give the seller $1,000 in earnest money, which would be returned if the sale does not go through.

“The purchase-and-sale agreement is to hold the property for us unless there’s another buyer,” Town Manager Earla Haggerty said. “If another buyer comes along and makes a better offer, and the seller says OK, we get our earnest money back and we’re out of the game.”

The land would be used as the site for a new fire and rescue station, although any design for the building can’t be started until the town owns the land.

The move to purchase the land is the latest step in an effort to improve operations for both the fire and police departments.

The fire department has outgrown its space and the police department is contending with security concerns that prevent officers from bringing those who are arrested back to the department for processing. Instead, officers have been bringing people to other police stations to process the paperwork.

The board last month approved spending to hire an engineer to begin designing a new space for the police department as an addition to the town office. 

The board on Tuesday also reviewed spending plans for federal pandemic relief aid. Selectmen met last month with the board of the Clinton Water District and plan to use a portion of the money on water district projects.

There was extensive discussion about offering premium pay to town employees who have been working through the pandemic.

Haggerty proposed a plan that would give $2,000 to full-time and part-time employees, and $1,200 to EMS employees who were on call through the pandemic.

The board ultimately approved a spending package proposed by Selectman Geraldine Dixon to give full-time employees $1,500 and part-time and on-call employees $1,000.

Selectmen Brian Bickford and Stephen Hatch voted to oppose the disbursement.

Selectmen expressed concern that Haggerty’s original proposal amounted to too much money. Bickford said he didn’t want to give any such pay to workers.

“We didn’t want a paper trail, and you’ve got how many people on this list? I’d rather that we just give it all to the water district,” Bickford said. “We’ve got one piece of paper and no way to mess up. It’s not that I don’t value the employees.”

“Well that’s what you say, but that’s not what you do,” Haggerty responded.

Haggerty said she was concerned that employees did not feel valued by the town, which could drive them to find other work.

“I also am concerned with the message we’re sending to a workforce that, in some cases, is already wondering if they should stay here,” Haggerty said.

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