Bristol police seek 6.4% spending increase to move to BristolWorks

BRISTOL — After the hearing on a proposed firehouse expansion at Holley Hall Monday evening, few people stayed around for the public hearing on the Bristol Police Department’s proposed 2013-2014 spending plan. Those that did heard the rationale for spending a little extra to move the department into a new space at the BristolWorks business park.
On Town Meeting Day, voters of the Bristol Police Department Special Service District will be asked to consider a police district budget of $362,000, that represents a 6.4 percent increase in spending compared to the $343,728 budgeted for the current year.
The proposed budget, which would raise more than $19,000 in new revenue through taxes, features a $17,000 increase in the department’s facilities line item (from $13,000 to $30,000) for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The increase would cover rent and utilities for a 2,300-square-foot space at BristolWorks that would be renovated to fit the needs of the Bristol Police Department, according to Town Administrator Bill Bryant and Police Chief Kevin Gibbs.
That sum would cover both renovations and rent on the space — no additional funds would be required for renovation work, Bryant said, as renovation would be built into the lease.
At Monday’s public hearing, Bryant laid out the plan for voters. He also clarified that a second ballot item would ask to use $30,000 from the district’s undesignated fund to purchase communications and security equipment for the new facility. That $30,000 comes from a surplus in the police operating fund that the town was able to save because it was short an officer for part of the last year, and because the officer that was eventually hired declined to accept the health insurance that had been budgeted for him.
Questions raised at the hearings included inquiries about why the planning commission had not been included in police and fire facility discussions.
“Our job is to plan the buildings, their job is to plan the direction of where the town will go,” explained selectboard chair Peeker Heffernan.
A citizen asked whether having headquarters outside downtown would hinder police. Bristol police currently work out of an office on South Street.
Gibbs assured the public that the BristolWorks location would meet all of the department’s needs.
Other questions focused on whether the police district would expand to town-wide service, and if the investment at BristolWorks made sense while that issue was still open.
Gibbs and Bryant explained that they believed the BristolWorks facility would be adaptable to a town-wide police department. In fact, Gibbs said, he felt as though expanding before the department had an appropriate facility would be premature.
The second public hearing on the police department will precede town meeting on Monday, March 4, and take place at 6 p.m. in Holley Hall. Voting will take place by Australian ballot on Tuesday, March 5, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Only the voters of the Bristol Police Department Special Service District will be eligible to vote.

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