PROVINCETOWN — The building committee went over its seven years of work planning a new police station with the select board this week in a final run-up to the election Tuesday that will decide the fate of the proposed $12.5 million building on Jerome Smith Road.
Building committee members argued any delay would result in higher costs and that the price per square foot is consistent with other stations built in the region recently. They also maintained their station lacks frills, said Tom Coen, chair of the building committee.
“Gyms, sleeping quarters and lounges — we don’t have that,” Coen said.
“I was against the size of the [original] building and that’s why I got on the building committee,” said Paul Kelly. “A few of us got on the committee because of that. We cut a large training room for regional meetings.
“It’s not a plush building,” Kelly added. Besides the specialized equipment necessary for police work, “it’s sheetrock walls. It’s stripped down. There is no budget for extras.”
The appropriation of $3.9 million in supplemental funding for the new station has been the hottest topic in town government this year. If it passes, a new station will be built to replace the 1980s-era station, in a renovated funeral home, that has been deemed highly inadequate by police and town officials alike.
The $3.9 million must be added to the original estimate of $8.62 million approved at a 2017 town meeting. The higher price came from a new 2018 design estimate and 2019 construction bid. But it failed to get a two-thirds majority at the April 1, 2019 town meeting by nine votes, with 203 in favor and 115 opposed.
Given that the vote was so close, the select board left the corresponding debt exclusion question on the ballot for the June 18 town election. If that question passes by a simple majority, the supplemental funding article will come before voters again at a June 24 special town meeting, again requiring a two-thirds majority vote.
In the hope of gaining the necessary votes, select board member and former police chief Bobby Anthony asked the building committee to review the years of work that led them to the current design and location.
The first new police station design was too large at 17,000 square feet, said Sheila McGuinness, a building committee member. The new proposed size is 13,500 square feet, she added.
“We cut the regional training center, which was a large chunk,” McGuinness said.
But even after a first round of cuts, the 2013 select board asked that it be reduced even further, she said.
The task “seemed insurmountable to us, but we did it again by cutting space in hallways. And we shrank it another 1,000 square feet,” McGuinness said.
The building’s size is driven by the summer population influx in only one way: six jail cells are necessary in summer to accommodate several arrests at one time, said Acting Town Manager David Gardner. The town hires summer officers but all they get are “lockers the size of the ones you would have in middle school,” he said.
As for the location, the building committee looked at 14 sites, Coen said. Using a chart with criteria including cost, neighborhood impact, adverse economic impact, accessibility through multiple curb cuts, and acquisition costs, Jerome Smith Road came out as most desirable.
Finally there is the cost of delay. The Turner Building Cost Index shows an 11-percent rise in construction costs from the third quarter of 2016 to the third quarter of 2018, according to a fact sheet provided by the town. So far, with all the studies and consultants over the years, $1.2 million has been spent to get to this design, Kelly said.
“If it fails, that’s money that just disappeared,” Kelly said. “I cannot imagine that wasted money.”
Four out of five select board members favor the supplemental funding. Only the chair, Cheryl Andrews, remains opposed to the location and the cost.
When the select board voted to put the supplemental funding question on the April 1 town meeting warrant, Andrews said, the vote was 3-2 with Lise King and Andrews opposed. And, she added, the amount of deliberation was almost nil.
In prior years, she said, the energy to investigate alternate locations was strong until a certain point, then it just dropped off.
“I wish the energy had continued,” she said.
“We did the analysis,” said Kelly. “We filled out a chart and made priorities. The building committee chose a site. Are you saying the select board didn’t have input?”
“No, I’m saying the meeting we had on that was relatively short,” said Andrews.
“Didn’t town meeting vote overwhelmingly on this site?” Coen asked. “So the board of selectmen’s job was to bring something to town meeting, which they did. The bottom line is the town meeting voted on it. It was not a secret meeting.”
“There are people that will always not be satisfied by the design,” Anthony said. “There will always be people not ostensibily thrilled with the location. But you know something? That price is going to go up and up and up.”
“You’ve uncovered every stone,” King told the building committee. “You’ve looked at 14 locations. I’m giving a vote of confidence in the work you’ve done.”