Plan aired for smaller, cheaper Brunswick police station

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BRUNSWICK — Tuesday’s presentation on a scaled-back version of a new police station was disappointing to some members of the Police Station Committee, which rejected a more expensive plan two weeks ago.

“It showed us that those nice things we want, we can’t afford,” Town Council Chairwoman Joanne King said.

The new version, presented by architect Brett Donham of Donham & Sweeney, comes in under the $5.5 million cap established by the committee. It lacks many of the bells and whistles that were included in the original $7.2 million plan.

“We’re sort of backtracking on some of the decisions that were made earlier, in a negative way,” said committee member Rita Worthing, one of several who expressed concerns.

The new police station is now planned to be smaller, simpler, and less energy-efficient than the version that committee members reviewed two weeks ago.

“Those are the decisions you will have to make, or increase the budget,” Donham said. “… When we’re taking things out of the budget, we’re going to have some things that are going to be less nice than they were before.”

The building design has been reduced from 26,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet, a change that was accommodated by trimming several functional areas within the facility.

For example, three shift sergeants will share a single desk, rather than having separate desks.

“That’s actually fairly common, and the Police Department is amenable to that,” Donham said.

Other things that were scrapped include a two-bay garage to hold a boat and boat trailers, parking spaces, undedicated space for future expansion, a workout room for officers, a carport, and a community meeting room.

Committee member David Watson asked for a cost-benefit analysis of the removal of the workout room; without the room, the town will continue to pick up the tab for gym memberships for officers.

The ventilation system will be less efficient, and LED systems will likely give way to more conventional lighting.

In response to a question from committee member Sarah Brayman, Donham said the building would still meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building requirements.

Committee members made several suggestions, and questioned whether the smaller facility would be as functional as the larger version.

Bernard Breitbart expressed concern about the reduced height of the garage ceiling, which he said wouldn’t accommodate ambulances or other types of large vehicles.

“It’s just such a drastic downsize to me,” he said. “In the future, I don’t want us to have designed something that doesn’t fit.”

Deputy Police Chief Marc Hagan said that, while department members have made suggestions and requests, the new building will allow police to perform their duties.

“We are perfectly comfortable that what we have is a functional police station and will allow us to do our work,” Hagan said.

There was a significant amount of discussion about how the simpler building design would look for a gateway building at the corner of Stanwood and Pleasant streets.

The more expensive plan had more complex structural features and detail work.

“I’m concerned that we’re taking away a lot of the detailing,” Brayman said. “I’d like to see what the savings are there – is it significant or is it marginal? I would like dressing up the building to not be last on the list.”

Donham said the simpler design is in keeping with traditional Brunswick buildings from the early 1800s, while the more complex design reflected post-Civil War buildings.

“An attractive, handsome building that’s a credit to the town can take a variety of forms,” he said. “I think it depends on where one looks for models.”

Landscaping was mentioned as a possible low-cost option to improve the overall look of the building. Donham said that as many of the site’s existing trees as possible would be preserved.

Committee members reiterated their commitment to the $5.5 million cap, but said that they would like to see the potential cost of various individual features.

Donham promised to revise the plan based on feedback he had received.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or matthh@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hh_matt.

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