Wells Public Library, as seen Aug. 18 afternoon.

Wells Public Library, as seen Aug. 18 afternoon.

WELLS — To keep the property tax growth below the state-mandated level, in August the Board of Selectmen decided to scrap plans to ask voters at the Nov. 8 election to support a bond for a public safety and Fire Department sub-station.

Earlier this week, selectmen heard from Ron Lamarre, an architect with the firm Lavallee Brensinger, about what he’s done so far. They directed him to work on a scaled-down plan that would cost the town less than $15 million. The original proposal would have cost at least $4 million more.

Because of the additional work needed to come up with a new plan, a referendum on a bond to pay for the combined police and fire station and a new fire substation is tentatively planned to go before voters at the June town meeting.

As a result of the selectmen’s decision to hold down costs, a $4.8 million bond that was being considered for the November ballot to pay for a 25,000-squarefoot expansion of the Wells Public Library is also off the table.

But unlike the public safety bond, a bond for the library isn’t likely to be voted on in June, said Town Manager Jon Carter.

“The selectmen have decided they really have to prioritize these projects. The public safety building and Fire Department sub-station are priority number one,” he said, adding that the library is the next priority.

However, Amy Anderson, the chair of the library board of trustees, said she is still hopeful selectmen may decide to put a library bond before the voters sooner rather than later.

In an email, she said that “at the Selectman’s meeting we were told that it would be 6 weeks before we knew definitely. … We are continuing to fund raise and are optimistic about the outcome.”

So far, there are no definitive plans about how to rein in the building costs for the public safety building, said Carter, although some ideas are being discussed.

“One idea,” he said, “is instead of phasing the project is to build the entire project in one phase.”

This would involve keeping the existing fire and police stations in service, and moving staff to the back of the buildings while construction in the front takes place, he said.

Another idea, Carter said, “is to take out or shrink way down … the space allocated for the Wells Emergency Medical Service.”

These two ideas could provide substantial savings, he said.

The sooner a bond to build a new public safety building goes on the ballot, the better, said Carter. There is “a critical need to replace the police station,” he said in August. “It’s in a very poor state. It’s the number one facility that needs to be dealt with.”

There are a number of problems with the 1969 police station that was originally built as the town hall, said police Lt. Kevin Chabot. The 5,100-square-foot building, located at 1563 Post Road, is not only showing signs of wear, but inhibits the safety and security of the department, he said.

Some of the deficiencies include: a cramped dispatch center, an inadequate heating system, a unisex locker room for officers so men and women have to take turns changing, no showers, lack of space so the break room is also a meeting room, a cafeteria and a work area, and the sergeant’s office is also used to interview suspects and others.

In addition, there are no holding cells for prisoners and no secured parking area for police vehicles, and the only public area in the station is a small lobby, so sex offenders and those meeting with a probation officer must wait in the same area.

There are also numerous deficiencies at the High Pine and Branch fire substations, Carter said. “They cannot accommodate modern fire equipment.”

While a bond to pay for an expansion to the public library may have to wait, a report on the library’s website enumerates a list of reasons why it shouldn’t be put off too long.

The library, which was built in 1978 and expanded in 1992, is full almost to capacity, according to the website.

Some of the deficiencies include book shelves that are full, limited meeting space, just nine computers with internet access for public use and inadequate space for students who use the facility.

— Associate Editor Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected] Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf contributed to this report.

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