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Police station falls short; Plan fails to get necessary votes.

Byline: Paula J. Owen

ASHBY - After more than an hour-and-a-half of discussion at special town meeting yesterday morning, voters failed to move forward with the proposed $3 million police station project.

It required a two-thirds vote and would have gone before voters at a special election if passed, but of the 132 voters who turned out, only 36 voted in favor - half of the 72 needed.

Although most agreed that the old double-wide trailer that was once used for classrooms and now houses the Police Department provides substandard conditions and poor security for police, opponents said spending millions on the building in the current economy was too much.

Resident Richard Shaw said he felt spending more than $3 million for a single-purpose building in a town the size of Ashby was ridiculous and financially irresponsible. Ashby has a population of about 3,200.

"This is not Great Plains, New York," he said. "We don't have that kind of money."

He questioned why the town office building that is in need of repair in front of the police station was not considered by the Building Committee.

The town office building, he said, could be repaired and used as headquarters for all town offices and departments. As an example, he cited Barre's renovation of its old high school for use by town departments.

He added that he felt information disseminated by Ashby on its proposed project misrepresented costs at $3 million.

Clark H. Rowell, the town's financial adviser, explained it was estimated the town would pay about $240,000 a year on a 20-year bond on the project, costing a total of $4.8 million in principal and interest based on a 4.5-percent interest rate.

The economy was used by opponents as a reason not to move forward and by proponents who argued that now is precisely the time to do so. The state of the economy could be used to the town's advantage with many contractors "hungry for work," the latter group said.

Speaking in favor, Sharon L. Stacy said it was ridiculous to have such a lengthy discussion over what would equate to around 65 cents per day for most taxpayers when residents place such high expectations on the Police Department.

She and others in favor said they were concerned about crime coming into the town from other areas.

"Do we really think people stop at the Fitchburg line and don't come to Ashby to commit crimes?" she said.

"None of us would work in those conditions," she added, referring to the station.

Another resident asked if residents wanted police being trained in a facility that could be "ripped apart by their 3-year-old's birthday party."

Police Chief Paul H. Lundin said it was not his "style to engage in scare tactics," but said the station was unsafe for the people inside and outside of it, with the most critical issue one of security.

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: A rendering of the new police station proposed on the Ashby special town meeting warrant.

PHOTOG: SUBMITTED PHOTO
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 23, 2008
Words:505
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