Fryeburg hits more snags with Rescue/Police building

By Emily Butterfield

Contributing Writer

FRYEBURG — The discussion on extending the existing lease with Fryeburg Rescue for space for the Police Department took a very different turn than what was anticipated at the last Thursday's selectmen’s meeting.

Selectmen were about to continue the existing lease when Bill Kane of Fryeburg Rescue asked whether or not the board understood that extending it until February 2017 would only allow the police their current 440 square foot area they are operating in now.

Fryeburg Rescue plans on expanding their building, which they say would include additional space for the police if an agreement can be reached. Kane says that the rescue service was approved by the USDA for their loan on July 6 of this year.

Back in October of 2014, the board of selectmen attempted to move the police department to a facility on Porter Street in Fryeburg but it was discovered that such a task could only be accomplished with a town meeting and public vote. At the June 2015 annual town meeting, voters rejected Article 46, which would have allowed the town to enter into long-term leases without voter approval, many citing that they wanted to have a say in such an important decision.

“You’re doing nothing you said you were going to do,” Kane told the board. “The police stay in that small space.”

“If you hadn’t been building and Steve (Goldsmith) hadn’t come to us a year ago, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” said Chairman Rick Eastman. He added that the selectmen are still a full year away from having to give a specific answer to whether or not the police will continue their residency long-term. “It’s a continuing moving target. The rules keep changing.” Eastman said that the day after one meeting the board had with Fryeburg Rescue a change was made to a lease agreement adding that the town would be penalized if they chose to terminate early.

Kane shot back saying, “You were ready to sign that lease,” referencing the lease for the building on Porter Street issued by Selectman Eastman himself. “You were only stopped because of a procedural problem. I said from the beginning that the shadow of that will cast its way forward.” Kane also says there is no penalty to the town for continuing the police department’s residency with Fryeburg Rescue for at least three years, adding that if the select board chose that option the police would have the new 350 to 400 square foot space as soon as it became available. “You keep saying what’s important, but keep doing something that doesn’t make any sense.”

Eastman says that both the Rescue and the police department have grown over the past 27 years. “10 years from now, if we stay the course, we’re going to be hashing this all over again.” But, Kane said, that he expects the police to be gone in 10 years.

Dick Krasker remarked, “I think the voters have made it very clear they would like the town to continue to work with Fryeburg Rescue. I don’t understand why you’re so hesitant.”

While the selectmen had no direct answer to Krasker’s question, selectmen Jeff Cox added his thoughts and agreed with Eastman’s comments about a continuous target. “We went from 30 days notice to several months notice.” Cox said that at the last meeting with Fryeburg Rescue that comments were made from several members about the threat of space. “We have an obligation to take the right action the first round.”

Krasker said that “in a perfect world the police would have their own space. But this isn’t a perfect world. This is the best deal that the town is going to get. It‘s also the best location for a lot of reasons.”

“We’ve kicked this can as far down the road as it’s going to go,” said Eastman. “It’s time the town takes responsibility for its own departments.”

Board member Janice Crawford said that she would abstain from voting on whether or not to continue the Rescue lease. “I don’t feel comfortable voting in this at all. I would prefer to abstain because if we cannot discuss those things we believe we could do, or be able to do, then that concerns me.” Crawford felt that transparency was an important issue for voters and that they have a right to know what the board is discussing in terms of options. “I understand it’s a tough one.”

When it came time for a vote, with Crawford abstaining, it was up to Cox and Eastman to decide. Eastman voted for extending the current lease, and after a brief and intense pause, Cox voted against the motion. The extension to the lease failed.

Selectmen Cox then motioned that the board table the discussion until the next meeting and also bring forward all options to the public on Thursday, August 13. Kane also offered to sit down again with the board and discuss options as well. So it seems yet again that there is no definitive answer on what will happen with the police department occupancy until a later date.

 

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