In a special meeting held on Wednesday night, Middletown Town Council approved to put a $7.5 million bond referendum on November’s ballot for the renovations of the existing fire station as well as the former police station, for the public works department. The motion passed with a 5-0 vote; Councilor Christopher T. Semonelli and Edward Silveira were absent.
The project, which was first contemplated in 1999, considered the option to build a new station near the new police station on Valley Road.
The administration recommended to keep the current location after Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB), the firm who was hired to conduct response times, said the existing location on Wyatt Road was ideal. Shawn Brown, Town Administrator, said the existing response time is six minutes, and if the town decided to build a substation in the future, the response time could be reduced to four minutes.
The $7.5 million cost estimate was described by Brown as a conservative estimate to ensure the town would not have to go back to the voters or the State for additional money. If the costs came in lower, the town would not have to borrow the additional money.
Brown pointed out that the town had approval to borrow up to $8 million for the construction of the new police station on Valley Road, but only borrowed $6 million.
“Our job at this time is to ensure we have the resources available,” said Brown regarding cost estimate.
Brown said the town hired two independent firms to prepare estimates because of the short timeline and the concerns that the project is a renovation and not a new construction.
One of those firms hired The Lawrence Associates out of Connecticut.
“It adds a degree of complexity,” said Richard Lawrence, about the need to keep the station operational during construction. Lawrence, who has been involved with the project since 2005, estimated it would cost around $6 million to renovate the building.
Ferrar and Associates out of Newport, estimated the project would cost around $1.4 million more, or $7.4 million.
Lawrence said as his firm completed design iterations, it was passed to Ferrar so both firms had the same overall design assumptions.
Brown said the bond will not impact on taxpayers, as the money will be pulled from revenue that the town receives from the Navy for police and fire services.
In 2005, council established a dedicated fund for this revenue, called the PPV Special Revenue Fund, that was established to reserve money exclusively for capital improvements projects related to public safety. The town is in a 20 year contract with the Navy, and receives $1.1 million annually.
“We always preserved the revenue stream to serve this purpose,” said Brown. He said that $500,000 is pulled annually to pay the bond for the police station.
“It should cover it,” said Brown related to the remaining money available.