2017-11-03 / In the Know

Chiefs’ view: Public safety building vote

By Robbie Moulton and B. Michael Thurlow Special to the Leader

As we approach the Nov. 7 referendum vote for a new public safety facility, we wanted to provide our perspective on this project. In 2007 the need for a new public safety facility was identified and at that time the town procured land and hired an architect to develop conceptual plans and cost estimates.

Unfortunately, when the economic downturn of 2008 occurred, those plans were put on hold. By the time the economy began to stabilize, Wentworth School was identified as the most pressing need in our community and the plans for a new public safety facility were further postponed while the school was built.

Nearly a decade later, at the end of 2016, the town council authorized an ad hoc committee to revisit the need for a new public safety facility. The committee consisted of a number of very talented Scarborough residents, many of whom have construction experience. The committee worked with our consultants to identify space needs, select a site, produce schematic designs, develop perspective drawings and provide a cost estimate.

The committee met regularly to refine the project and presented their final report and recommendations to the town council last summer. Those recommendations include selling the current public safety building and applying those proceeds towards this project reducing the amount we need to borrow.

The process has been very transparent and all the information produced is available for review on the committee’s website www.scarboroughmaine.org/psb.

Those materials include a short narrated video tour of the existing facility. We truly believe that taking that time to watch the video or visit the station in person would help anyone understand why we feel so strongly that this building is beyond its useful life and is in need of replacement.

We would like to give you our assurance that we have worked hand in hand with the committee to make sure that this is a facility of needs and not wants. While the architect may have become tired of hearing it, we as a committee constantly demanded this facility be a Chevy. We are not looking for, nor do we need, a Cadillac. There is no marble and granite and no fancy trimming. We have, in every way possible, taken advantages of economies of scale by sharing space, resources, and eliminating the need for duplicative equipment. Our goal was to provide a functional, safe, healthy and cost effective building, which will serve our community well into the future.

Building the new facility on the site that the committee selected next to town hall will provide our residents the convenience of one-stop service. There are certainly times that residents either go to town hall or to the public safety building only to find out that they need to be at the opposite.

Being able to walk across the parking lot instead of fighting to get across five busy lanes of Route 1 should be an advantage to all. This site also allows us to be on the same campus as the high school, middle school, and Wentworth School. While we don’t like to think about such things, in this day and age, having an immediate response to those facilities as well as having a safe and secure place for our children to come to, should it be necessary, is critical.

The site plan design went through many revisions to minimize the impact, and provide additional value to our beautiful Memorial Park. A new roadway was designed that bisects a very small section of one corner of the park, avoiding the areas where the arch, memorial trees and benches are located. This road will provide improved access and egress for responders onto Sawyer Road so we can make use of the controlled intersection vs. direct access onto Route 1 on an unsafe hill eliminating the gridlock we deal with at our current site. This road design provides 39 additional parking spaces along the south edge of the park for the convenience of those that frequent it. We have also included a public restroom on the north end of the station for park patrons.

As two men who are life-long taxpayers, who were born and raised right here in Scarborough, we fully understand the demographics of our community and how many folks struggle to make ends meet. Together we offer our opinions and perspectives based on over 82 years of combined public safety service.

We have held every rank within our respective departments and bring more than 35 years of service and experience as chiefs leading our respective departments. In that role it is our duty to advise the manager, council and residents of our department’s needs to fulfill our mission.

There are many things that have changed over our tenure in public service, and our departments have had to adapt accordingly. We have taken on those challenges while being fiscally responsible and meeting the needs of a fast growing community. We can assure you that we have made do in this existing facility for as long as we possibly can. We understand this project is expensive, but we also know that construction costs and bond rates are increasing. The need is very clear and is not going to go away. The cost of a new facility, as well as the cost of maintaining the current facility in the meantime, is only going to increase.

Superintendent Julie Kukenberger has assured us the school department won’t be bringing any new school construction projects forward for at least five years so now is the time to move this project forward. The average annual cost over the 30-year term of the bond, for the average $300,000 homeowner, is $80.43/year or 1.55/week, less than a cup of coffee.

Finally we think it important that you recognize that this new facility is not about us. We are in the twilights of our careers and will not personally benefit from this facility for long. This project is about the future of our departments and the ability for those that follow us to provide the quality public service that our community deserves and has come to expect.

We ask for your support of this facility because we truly believe in our hearts that this is the right thing for our friends, neighbors, and the community that we grew up in and dearly love. Thank you for your consideration and please vote on Nov. 7.

Robbie Moulton is police chief for Scarborough. B. Michael Thurlow is fire chief for Scarborough.

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