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Norwich to Discuss New Buildings

Norwich — The Selectboard will hear public comment on five possible designs for new or upgraded joint police and fire stations on Wednesday. The board will also consider three possible designs for reconfiguring the town’s public works facility on New Boston Road.

The main purpose of the building projects is to improve the facilities available to the town’s public service departments, said Tom Gray, chairman of the Capital Facilities Committee .

The 1957-era ranch house where the police station is located faces structural, insect and rodent challenges, while the fire and public works departments are tight on space.

“We’re probably not going to do something like this again for a while, (so it’s) important to get it right,” said Gray.

Interested community members have been invited to share their thoughts with the Selectboard and Gray’s committee as they sort out whether more study is necessary before paring down the list of options.

The hearing will be the first at which cost comparisons — ranging from $3 million to $4 million for the fire and police departments and from $2.8 to $3 million for the public works facility — have been available.

The costs as presented are intended to give residents and officials a sense of the “order of magnitude” of the proposals, said Gray. He said detailed costs will be available later on.

Three of the possible designs for fire and police station upgrades would involve reconfiguring the current site off Fire House Lane. The two remaining designs would relocate the fire and police departments to the Agway/ABC Dairy property on Route 5.

According to the estimates, the least costly design would keep the fire and police stations on the lot where they are housed currently, while the most expensive would relocate them to the ABC Dairy site.

Estimates for the ABC Dairy designs include $750,000 to purchase the parcel from David Clem of Lyme Properties, which is “on the high end of what the town would pay,” said Town Manager Neil Fulton.

Other costs have yet to be factored in, said Fulton. For example, estimates for converting the existing site do not include the cost to house the fire department elsewhere during construction. Fulton described this as a “convenience factor.”

He also noted that the not-for-profit developer Twin Pines Housing Trust has expressed an interest in converting the 1.2-acre Fire House Lane parcel to affordable housing.

Should the town donate the property to the nonprofit, Twin Pines has said it would consider offering housing preference to current and former residents of Norwich and those who work for the town or the school district, said Fulton.

Gray said that the opportunity to locate affordable housing in town might be “further impetus” to relocate the police and fire departments.

“Whether there might be affordable housing possible at the Main Street site could play a significant role in this decision,” he said.

In addition to the cost comparison, participants in Wednesday’s meeting will have a chance to review projected tax rate impacts.

Over the next 30 years, the tax rate is anticipated to go up an average of 2 cents per $100 of valuation annually due to these capital projects, resulting in an increased annual tax burden of approximately $80 on a home valued at $400,000.

“It doesn’t seem to me as though the impact is too severe,” said Gray.

Gray acknowledged, however, that other residents’ opinions may vary depending on their ability and willingness to pay.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.