Whether you are for or against the proposed $12.5 million police station, show up to vote at the polls this Tuesday, June 18. This one could be close. If the Prop 2½ debt exclusion question passes with a simple majority at the ballot, you’ll need to return to town hall on Monday, June 24 to vote again on the station at a special town meeting.
This final hurdle is the most critical because the police station funding article will require a two-thirds majority to pass. On April 1, the $3.9 million in supplemental funding to complete the station failed to get the needed supermajority by nine votes, with 203 in favor and 115 opposed.
The narrowness of the margin convinced officials that they should keep it on the ballot and schedule a special town meeting to get the police station approved at last.
History tells us that those who are opposed to a particular question are often the ones to pack town meetings. This is especially true when it comes to those most affected by a building project, that is, the neighbors. It makes sense, of course. If your view or the traffic in your neighborhood is about to be changed forever, you tend to care enough to save the date.
Supporters of the plan who are directly affected, who in this case would be the police officers themselves, are also quite likely to show up. But many members of the force don’t live in Provincetown. That includes Chief Jim Golden, who resides in Truro.
One chief who does live in town, however, is the fire department’s Michael Trovato. And he, along with his firefighters, appear to be against the supplemental funding and the location for the police station as proposed. Last week Trovato presented a letter to the select board in which he explained that he wanted the station to be located at the former VFW parcel across the street from the proposed Jerome Smith Road location. His argument is based on his desire to construct a substation for his department, which would allow for more paramedics to bunk overnight, more apparatus bays and an outdoor training facility.
“Once the VFW site is gone, we won’t have the option for such an ideal location for the new police station for a fire department substation,” wrote Trovato on June 3.
The police station could be built in front, and the substation could go in the back, he added. The police station could be constructed first, and the substation could come later, with funds raised through the sale of the Johnson Street substation, he wrote.
Trovato’s letter stated that the fire department voted unanimously “to ask the board of selectmen to do the right thing and respectfully reconsider the use of the VFW property.”
Acting Town Manager David Gardner said this is the first time Trovato has brought up this proposal. “The fire department should have come forward years ago,” Gardner added. “It’s too little, too late at this point.”
But it’s not too late for residents to come out and exercise their right to vote.
The police station would cost each taxpayer about $321 a year for a median-price home valued at $869,300 during the life of the loan. It would cost $166 a year for a median-price condominium valued at $448,400, according to a fact sheet from the town.
There are other values to consider as well, including the ability to attract and retain gifted police officers to this remote region. Their ability to keep the town safe and solve crimes directly affects the quality of life of residents and visitors.
The current police station is too small and inadequate in almost every way. Getting a new one is a matter of when, not if, and constructions costs are going only one way: up. Voters with an eye on their bank accounts should keep that in mind.