Robin Lewis, Gardner municipal court judge, on June 28, speaking at the city’s town hall event about the need for the proposed new Gardner Justice Center. Photo courtesy of Rick Poppitz
Special to The Gardner News
On June 28, the Gardner hosted a town hall event at the senior center to discuss the proposed Gardner Justice Center on 167th. The proposed building would be police headquarters and municipal court facilities.
The proposed project would use General Obligation bonds to fund construction. An election will be held on Aug. 1, 2017, to determine if residents approve of the financial commitment.
Chris Morrow, mayor, began the meeting by thanking everyone for attending and recognizing the other members of the governing body that were present: Steve Shute, council president; Rich Melton, council member; and Kristy Harrison, council member.
Morrow mentioned the origins of the current building. He said the city acquired the building from a telephone company in the early 1990’s for the price of one dollar.
The population of Gardner when the building began being used for the police was only 3-4 thousand people. By 2001 it was around 10,000.
“That’s just a little bit about how the city’s grown and yet how the police station and municipal court facilities have not,” said Morrow.
Jim Pruetting, police chief, introduced a new video the city has produced. The video is a tour of the current police facility.
“We made this video we’re about to show, so that we could reach the largest number of people in the easiest fashion,” said Pruetting. He invited anyone who wanted a personal tour to call anytime and said they’d get one scheduled.
The next speaker was Robin Lewis, Gardner municipal court judge.
Lewis described the challenges of holding municipal court in the city hall building.
There is no designed courtroom in city hall. Instead, council chambers are used, and the people appearing for court spill out into the foyer.
“When you’re dealing with almost 300 people on any given docket, that makes it almost impossible to provide the quality of service that we intend and are used to providing,” Lewis said.
Larry Powell, business and economic development Director, gave a presentation on ADA and building maintenance issues.
Powell shared slides showing deterioration throughout the building. He said the electrical system was worn out and needed complete replacement. The heating and AC systems are inadequate. There are safety issues and ADA compliance issues.
Michael Kramer, public works director, presented information from the Space Needs Study that was used to project needs and cost of the project.
The study projects Gardner city population in 2035 will be around 32,000. This growth is considered while deciding how big a facility and how much land is needed.
Costs include $11.4 million in construction, plus soft cost of more than $2 to make a total project cost of $13.47 million.
A question and answer period after the presentations lasted about 45 minutes.
The city has created a section on their website devoted to the Justice Center issue.
The website provides information about the topic, photos and video of the police station and videos of the town hall meeting presentations.