September 25, 2018
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Town leaders alarmed by talk of $1.2M jump in price tag for new police station

Deb Cram | Portsmouth Herald
Deb Cram | Portsmouth Herald
South Berwick Town Council Chairman Jack Kareckas, with town councilor Russ Abell, left, presides over a February 2016 meeting discussing plans to construct a new police station in town.
By Mark Pechenik, Portsmouth Herald

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Town councilors expressed alarm about a possible $1.2 million increase in the cost of the new police station project at their April 10 meeting.

If approved by voters, the new station would be built on Route 236 adjacent the Farmgate condominium community.

Town Manager Perry Ellsworth indicated the Planning Board had mandated low-impact standards be met in construction of the police station, which he said could add significant costs to construction. For instance, the addition of two new catch basins could mean an increase of $8,000 and $13,000, respectively, to the project. Other costs include $10,000 to $15,000 for a fitness room and power and utility costs that could amount to $25,000. He said expenses for building materials such as steel and fuel are likely to be higher by the time construction begins this fall.

Ellsworth proposed a 5 percent contingency be added to the construction budget, which would increase the cost from $2.8 million to $4 million.

“Going for anything less than $4 million would mean an incomplete project,” he said. “It would be foolish to try and go ahead with something less than $3.5 million.”

Ellsworth said an exact cost for construction would not be possible until bids come in from contractors. The bid deadline is May 15.

Councilor John James asked fellow councilors to reconsider the original Norton Street site for the station.

“There is three-phase power and no sewer issues and it would probably cost a lot less than $4 million to build,” James said, adding “I can’t go to town voters and ask them to support $4 million for the police station.”

Ken Weston of the Shoetown Neighborhood Association, a civic group that objected to the Norton Street site for the station, disagreed.

“Changing the site at this point would just escalate costs,” Weston said. “Farmgate is a win-win situation for the town. It would slow down traffic on that part of Route 236.”

Weston further said $4 million “in this realm is comparable to similar projects.”

The council agreed to Chairman Jack Kareckas’ proposal for a special workshop to be held before its April 24 meeting to discuss the station issue. “By that time we will have a better understanding of the construction costs,” he said.

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