For nearly a decade, the Merrimac Police Department had been placing bandages on its crumbling police station, which stood in the worst structural portion of the joint police and fire complex on East Main Street.
In the spring of 2017, a proposal for a large new joint police, fire and public works complex went to town meeting.
At that point, Chief Eric Shears brought in JGPR to determine how to best engage the community in a two-way conversation. The police department was in the worst shape and was facing the threat of closing its station due to numerous structural problems and health code violations. At the same time, the department needed the support of its community — it had to understand what people wanted and what people would vote for at the ballot and at town meeting.
The result was collected in MerrimacPublicSafetyProject.com, which has become the company’s staple approach to capital projects, which has been replicated in school, fire department and police capital projects in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in 2018 and 2019.
The department surveyed the citizens of Merrimac, and the results indicated that residents would support a new standalone police station but that the costs needed to be reduced. Merrimac residents knew that the Pentucket Regional School District was in the final stages of a massive joint Middle-High School construction project, and residents did not appear to have the appetite to simultaneously support the tax increases presented by both the school project and a major municipal complex.
Ultimately, Merrimac presented a project with a tax burden of $50 for every $100,000 of home value. Using the website, social media, media relations and public meetings, the Merrimac Police Department was able to effectively show not only the need for different aspects of the new station but the overall value and benefit for the community. In November 2018, voters overwhelmingly approved the new project, and construction began in May 2019.