Smyrna Town Council finally made a decision regarding the proposed police station Monday night as they voted 4-3 to move forward with the project.
The decision was made following a lengthy discussion on whether it was the right time to even vote on the police station expansion. Councilwoman Joanne Masten, Councilwoman Valerie White and Councilman Jeff Flairty voted against the measure.
Discussions regarding the proposed police station, which failed in a referendum in the April 30 election, started when Town Manager Dave Hugg informed council that funding could be available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Facilities Fund. This program helps fund community buildings such as libraries and police stations.
Hugg only found out about the available funding after talking to a USDA representative regarding the sewer system north of town. The Delaware USDA office has about $4.2 million available to lend the town with a 3.5 percent interest rate over 40 years. Hugg said if the town decides to not apply for the funding, they could always try next year or go to the bond market, where they could also see some favorable funding options.
“So it’s a question of whether we take advantage of an opportunity that’s available or not,” Hugg said.
The only problem, Hugg explained, is the application is due relatively soon and it’ll take time to complete; therefore, he needed some direction rather quickly.
Concerns from council
Several council members voiced their concerns regarding the proposed $4.9 million building, which would see the current Smyrna Police Station expand to 26,000 square feet.
First there was some confusion with what exactly they were being asked to do: vote on the proposed police station and give permission for Hugg to apply for the funding, or if council was just being asked to make a decision on the USDA application.
Some suggested Hugg apply for the funding but they wait to decide on the police station. Councilman Flairty felt council shouldn’t be discussing funding for a police station that council has yet to vote on, but he also felt council should’ve provided a budget for how much the town could afford for the police station.
Some suggested downsizing the proposed facility if the town can’t afford the price tag. Councilwoman White advised council move forward with caution so they don’t have a repeat of the last failed attempt of a new police station.
“We’ve been down this path before and spent a very great deal of money previously,” White said. “That’s my only concern is that we don’t do it again and then two years from now it’s a whole different council doing it all again.”
Page 2 of 2 - Councilman Anthony DeFeo said the initial results of the feasibility study were a tough pill to swallow but the proposed police station expansion is needed.
Council eventually voted to move forward with the proposed police station, including evaluation of the USDA funding options.
Discussions on the proposed police station will now go to the Finance Committee, where they will continue to look at all the proposed capital projects as a whole including the police station and the utilities projects to see how they’ll all work together, how much they’ll cost and how that impacts the residents in terms of tax increases.
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