School parcel eyed for station

MILFORD – If a new police station is built in town, a committee that has been studying the issue since spring said it should be built in place of the largely unused Garden Street School – probably.

The committee’s final recommendation depends on whether a preliminary site plan says that a two-story police station with roughly 14,000 square feet can fit on the school’s oddly shaped lot.

The site plan by consultant Mike Constanga is scheduled to arrive Friday, with the committee presenting its recommendation to the Board of Selectmen perhaps as early as next week.

If the police station does fit, the committee has voted 12-2 to support tearing down the 77-year-old Garden Street School and building a new station – largely because retrofitting the school to post-Sept. 11 standards would be far more expensive than building anew.

“I hear people say, ‘I like that building, my grandfather graduated from it’ . . . but when I say it will cost an extra million (to keep it), I hear, ‘Tear it down,’ ’’ said committee member Mary Albina.

If the site plan says a police station won’t fit on the roughly 2-acre lot, it’s not certain what the facilities committee will recommend.

The station would certainly fit on the site if an adjacent 1/6-acre lot, currently the site of a four-family house, was bought and added. That, however, would probably push the total price tag over a limit that the committee thinks would make it hard to sell to voters.

“The minute we go over $3 million, it’s dead,” said committee member Merv Newton.

The backup possibility would be to recommend building a new police station at the site of the current station – an idea rejected by voters two years ago, but one that could be held under the $3 million price.

It’s up to the selectmen to decide which plan, if any, to present to voters in March.

The committee is currently slated to give a half-hour presentation to the selectmen Monday, but hopes to push that back a week and get more presentation time.

Over the past three years, voters have rejected three different plans to replace the dilapidated former hotel that has housed the Police Department for more than a decade. None of those plans, however, included Garden Street School.

Garden Street, which has been both a high school and elementary school over the years, held its final set of classes last year. It is now used only for the Sage School, a facility for about two-dozen teens who have trouble adjusting to traditional classrooms.

The facilities committee has spent nine months looking at a variety of building needs in town, although replacing the police station has become their No. 1 priority.

An exhaustive search of properties in town convinced the group that it wasn’t feasible to combine police, fire and ambulance services, an idea that has been floated to solve a variety of space problems, without spending huge amounts of money.

“We have not overlooked the other facilities in our pursuit of solving the police situation,” said member Russ Monbleau. “We have considered every possibility for combining emergency services, and it does not work.”

The possibility of moving the ambulance service out of Town Hall and next to the fire station is still being considered, although it would require the purchase of some private property on Nashua Street.