Bristol rejects firehouse bond, says OK to new police HQ

BRISTOL — When faced with two votes for expanded municipal facilities on Town Meeting Day, Bristol voters said “no” to one and “yes” to the other.
The first, for an expansion to the fire department’s North Street facility, was soundly rejected by a 587-293 tally. The second, for a police district budget that would fund renovations and a 10-year lease for a new police station at BristolWorks, passed by a narrow margin.
“I’m glad we’re past the election so we can start to figure out next steps on both projects,” Town Administrator Bill Bryant said on Wednesday morning.
The firehouse bond had been the subject of intense discussion in recent weeks. Though members of the fire department had expressed their commitment to remaining in their historic location on North Street, public discussions at hearings and meetings raised questions about the proposed design, which would have used an adjacent lot, where the historic Duclos House currently stands, to add space and accommodate the fire department’s needs. Neighbors expressed concern about sidewalks, traffic, safety and aesthetics.
Despite the rejection of the proposal, Bryant said a positive outcome of the process had been the overwhelming public support for an improved facility for the fire department in a different location.
Meanwhile the police department, which has been operating out of a residential house on South Street for several years, is moving to the BristolWorks business park. Voters of the Bristol Police Department Special Service District approved by Australian ballot a 6.4-percent spending increase that will, among other things, pay for moving the department’s headquarters from its current location.
“I’m extremely pleased by the support of the voters for the police station,” said Police Chief Kevin Gibbs. “Sincerely and deeply pleased.”
The police station item required two votes, one for the budget and one to authorize the use of a $30,000 surplus in the police district budget for security and surveillance equipment to be installed during renovation of the BristolWorks space. Both articles passed by a narrow margin: Article 1 by a 262-226 vote, and Article 2 by a 276-214 vote.
The new budget, which will raise more than $19,000 in new revenue through taxes, ups the department’s facilities budget by $17,000 (from $13,000 to $30,000) for Fiscal Year 2013-2014, which starts July 1. The increase covers 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. No additional funds would be required for renovation work, Bryant has said, as renovation would be built into the lease. The South Street lease expires in October 2013, and the BristolWorks space is expected to be ready to accommodate the department at that time.
The new facility, Gibbs said, will allow the department to operate safely and professionally, and meet its anticipated needs for the duration of the 10-year lease.
“This will give us what we need to do our jobs more safely, both for us and the people we serve,” Gibbs said.

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